Sunday, February 28, 2010

And the winner is...

 

Congratulations to Danielle!  :)
Best of luck with your move!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snapshot

I thought you guys deserved at least a few details about my visit with Kyle at New Years.
Below you'll find our reunion.  It's as close to my exact perception of the moment as I can offer.
I'm sorry I couldn't give it up sooner.
---
I feel so small. I am lost in the sea of faces plucking luggage from the conveyor belt. I am completely helpless. All the signs meant to herd the crowd in the right direction are written in a language I can’t understand. I hang back and follow the people who look like they know where they’re going.  Their strides are confident and their shoulders are square. I try to imitate that dauntless attitude.

My heart is pounding. My legs are shaking. It has taken me nearly thirty hours to complete this journey that should have taken twelve. All my body wants is a bed and a glass of water and sleep. Sleep is bliss. By some divine act of God I navigate my way to the customs gate, present my empty passport, and watch with bloodshot eyes as its first stamp stains its pages. Part of my mind is already putting this scene to words for later while another part tells my lips to say “thank you.”

I gather my bags and take one step after another toward huge double doors. I breathe in, concentrating on the oxygen flooding my body. I breathe out. I memorize the way this feels. I expect a camera crew to roll out and document this moment. It seems appropriate considering how long we’ve been waiting and how much work it has taken to bring me here at last, more than 4,400 miles from home.

As the doors begin to part I close my eyes and hold my breath. My heart is hammering so loudly that it mutes the airport noises completely. The doors slide open and his voice breaks my moment of silence.

“There she is!”

I feel a smile burst across my face before my eyes have completely adjusted to the harsher light in the next room. But then there he is. He’s only fifteen feet away from me and suddenly I am full to bursting when only five minutes ago I was nothing but a shell. I am walking as fast as I can manage with four bags draped around my shoulders.

The bags are all on the floor and I don’t quite remember dropping them, but it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is his arms around me and the feel of his face beneath my fingers and the few hot tears sliding down my cheeks for the thousandth time. What was and what will be blur into this one incredible moment and I am so light that I swear I could lift right off the tiles, but I don’t. I stay right where I am, locked in that perfect first embrace, for once not worrying about the long road ahead.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Group Number One

You know how in Signs, Mel Gibson starts talking about how people break down into two types?  (If you haven't the foggiest clue what I'm talking about, this is what he says: People break down into two groups when the experience something lucky. Group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance.)  Well, I am one of those annoyingly persistent people who thinks that everything happens for a reason.  When I pass a traffic accident after just complaining loudly about being caught by every red light, I cease my blabbering and thank the heavens.  When I forget about a ten dollar bill and then find it again just when I need it most, I don't simply write it off as coincidence.  I choose to think that someone or something is looking out for me.

I can't bring myself to believe that nothing has a purpose.  I can't think that everything we do with our lives is pointless in the end.  I even believe that there is a reason for each of our mistakes.  Every time we slip up, we learn something to prepare us for next time.  We find the love of our life by dating people that are horribly wrong for us.  We learn to use our rear view mirrors by having the backside of our car smashed.  We learn to hold the banister by slipping on the stairs.  It's the natural order of things.

At some point, all of our mistakes and victories align to bring us to some climactic midpoint in our lives.  (It's like my favorite quotation by A.S. Byatt:  This is where I have always been coming to.  Since my time began.  And when I go away from here, this will be the midpoint, to which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run.)  All those little, seemingly inconsequential things that happened to us suddenly make sense.  Each moment had a purpose.  And after the midpoint has been reached, every decision we make afterward is effected by it.

I was never one of the popular kids in school.  I wasn't a complete dork either, though.  I kind of flew under the radar.  It wouldn't surprise me if a quarter of my tiny graduating class couldn't remember my name if asked.  I was never much for sports.  I'm not cut out to be a sorority girl.  When my parents divorced, I became determined to be independent.  I didn't want to give someone part of me because I didn't want to be hurt.  I had a very select group of friends, which is a polite way of saying there weren't many.  Each of those facts have shaped me into the young woman I have become.  Every one of them brought me here, to Richmond, KY; to my apartment with my best friend Brianne and my new cat Max; to a fiance I love more than life; to a family that isn't defined by blood alone, but by love; and to an upcoming adventure that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Growing up after the divorce the only thing that was stable in my life was my small group of friends that are like my siblings.  My parents have never understood why I care so deeply about them.  I'm not sure I understand it completely myself, but it's true nevertheless.  We're there for each other through everything, even now, and I love that I can say that with complete honesty.  But aside from them, there wasn't much else for me to love.  I didn't have a talent or a hobby or a project.  I had the vague dream of college, but that wouldn't become more defined until my high-school feminist years.  It was kind empty.  I had no motivation and didn't think I was going anywhere.  I came home to hear about nothing but my fueding family.  It hurt.  I hated it passionately.  I became cold and uncaring about almost everything, but eventually the haze began to lift.

I started high school with the determination to find a direction, and I gave myself one.  With no prospects of love in site I decided I didn't need that.  I morphed slowly into a girl with a head on her shoulders, but one that was filled with big dreams.  Ever so timidly I started to think I might make some of them come true.  The more my confidence grew the more people I let in to my life.  My tight circle of friends grew to form the group that I still have now, to some extent.  I began to smile more, cry less, and look ahead with excitement instead of fear.  (Unfortunately my bold personality brought with it some very poor tastes in fashion that I wasn't timid enough to hide...)  Carefully, gradually, and almost without my notice, my heart began to open.  I loved so many people so freely.  I was happy with my life for the first time in ages.

And then there was Kyle:  sweet, wonderful, compassionate Kyle, in need of some mending himself.  He unknowingly kicked in the last of the barricade, destroyed my feminist tendencies, and taught me once and for all that I don't have to be on my own -- that it's okay to need someone.  He was the first person to whom I willing gave away a part of my heart.  One and a half years of unrestrained love, a few semesters of college-style "critical thinking," a confrontation with the Army, and many fits of loneliness later, I am here.

I am on the brink of my life, making decisions that will shape my future.  I think it's safe to say that these past few days have been my mid-point.  It's kind of funny.  For the longest time I thought Kyle was my midpoint.  I really believed that he was what would change everything, but now I see that he is only one of the many things that led me to this place.  Each and every person I've encountered, each person on the sidewalk, each face in the crowd, all of you...everything.  Every moment played a vital role, but in the end it all came down to me.  That one moment of decision when I resolved to leap head first into the future, when I made up my mind to go ahead with this move and conscientiously put my trust in love...that was my midpoint.  Of course Kyle had something to do with it, but so did hundreds of other people.

I reached my midpoint both completely on my own and with an intricate overlapping of events.  Everything I have learned and encountered shaped my mindset, but I also felt the truth of my decision echo deep within my core.  Parts of that choice can be accredited to other people, but undoubtedly it is my own, for better or worse.

It's very likely that some of you think I'm crazy.  If that's true, then you belong in group number two.  But I think it's impossible not to feel the great and terrible weight of it all sometimes.  It feels like if we changed even one little thing about the past, the future would be irrevocably altered.  It makes life seem fragile and beautiful, and it gives it meaning.  After all, everything we do brushes someone else's life.  Each action inexplicably finds its way into an ornate tapestry of the world's history.  Doesn't that make you think twice about yelling at the drive-through window workers, or not bothering to kiss your husband goodbye before he leaves for work?  Doesn't it make you want to hold a hand out to someone who needs it?  At the very least, it makes me grateful for even the difficult times in my life.  It makes me appreciate the balance of things.

Who knows?  Maybe I am just a silly girl in love.  I don't know.  All I do know is that I'd rather be a fool with something to believe in than a scholar with an empty heart.

---
PS -- Don't forget that the Giveaway closes tomorrow!  Get those entries in pronto!  :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Giveaway!

Recently I was contacted by a representative from CSN Stores and asked if I'd like to host a giveaway on my blog to give my readers a chance to win a product from one of their websites absolutely free of charge.  Of course I jumped all over that idea.  After all, you guys are the best readers a girl could ask for; you deserve it! 

CSN Stores are online houseware shopping sites that provide pretty much anything you possibly need to outfit your home.  They offer brand name products from the convenience of your home.  Some items even ship for free!  I spent hours browsing before I could settle on one product to offer for the giveaway.  There were some gorgeous kids beds, beautiful orange sets of Rachael Ray cookware, bar stools in every color of the rainbow, and tons home decorations.  Eventually I settled on a product I thought all of us could use:


Everybody cooks at some point, right?  These lovelies are a two piece Paula Dean stoneware mixing bowl set.  The larger bowl holds three quarts, and the smaller holds two.  At a retail value of $39.95, one lucky blogger is getting quite the steal.  Sure, Paula may use a little too much butter for my tastes, but these mixing bowls don't come with a lifetime supply of the yellow stuff so we're in good shape.  ;)  Plus, I think these are gorgeous.

So, wanna know what you need to do to win these babies?  Of course you do!  The ways you can earn chances are listed below.
  1. Leave a comment telling me how much you'd love to own this prize for your first entry.  Please include your email address so that I can contact you if you win.
  2. Check out any of CSN Stores many sites [examples at end of post] and let me know what products you like best for an extra entry. 
  3. Followers may leave an extra comment for one more chance.
  4. If you blog or tweet about this giveaway with a link to this post, comment again for a fourth chance at winning.
  5. If you have EVER participated in my Making a Difference Mondays by leaving a link in one of my Mcklinky boxes, let me know the date of your participation in the comment box for another entry.
The winner will be randomly selected and announced on Saturday February 27th, and notified via email.  If the winner has failed to respond with contact information within a weeks time of notification I will select another winner.

Unfortunately, this giveaway is only open to readers from the USA or Canada.  I'm sorry, all my international visitors.  :(  The company can't ship that far. 

Now get to commenting, readers.  This one's all for you.  :)


CSN Stores include but are not limited to:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meet Max

Everyone, meet Max.  Max, this is everyone.


Max is the first (of many, most likely) furry friend to join my future family.  I adopted him Monday, but I thought I'd give him a couple days to settle in before letting him know that he has an audience of more than seven hundred.  His name is short for Maximus.  Ten points to the Hogwarts House of your choice if you guys know which movie that references.

So far he hasn't murdered any of my furniture, he recognizes that the litter box is his friend, and he's only brought on one fit of sneezes.  He even greets me at the door after a long day on campus.  So far things are looking great.


Well what do you think?  Is little Max the Cat reader approved?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Bucket List, Take 2

*climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower
*see the Mona Lisa
*see the ocean on both coasts of the US
*go skydiving
*go bungee jumping
*meet Stephenie Meyer
*meet JK Rowling
*publish my novel...and have it on the best-seller list
*meet my great-grandchildren
*save someone's life
*bake a cake from scratch...from memory
*have a library with super-tall bookcases
*work a job with a salary
*try sushi (it has more to do with being brave than with a desire to try the food)
*see the northern lights
*live in a city
*solve my own problem
*make a perfect score on every assignment in one class
*fall asleep under the stars
*read the Bible from cover to cover
*learn to change the oil in my car
*find a pen pal from another country (snail mail)
*pet a zebra
*travel in England, India, Japan, Mexico and Greece
*go shopping and buy everything I want that day
*run 5 miles without stopping, slowing, or tripping and falling ;)
*always color-code my closet
*drive a race car :D
*make sure my mom gets a new house...she deserves it
*memorize the recipe for pancakes
*stand at the edge of a volcano
*learn to make home-made pasta :)
*finish college, and then grad. school
*submit a postcard to PostSecret
*make my way through a cookbook Julie Powell style
 
To make a Bucket List effective, it must be constantly revised.  Things must be crossed off, added, and subtracted.  The list has to have room to grow with the writer's life.  My original list had three less items, and only four items crossed off.  Now ten of the items have been crossed out:  eight were completed and two were disregarded. 
 
I took out "skydiving" and "working a job with a salary" because they no longer reflect my life.  Skydiving is something that would make a great story...but not necessarily something that would change me for the better, and I think that's essentially the point of the list.  It's supposed to make you into the best and most accomplished version of yourself you can become; it's about experiencing all the things you want in life while you have the chance.  I don't think I want to jump out a plane after all.  Call it chickening out if you like, but it's just not sounding like my cup of tea.
 
I kicked out "working a job with a salary" for the same reason.  I just don't think the money is what matters in the job anymore.  Sure, money is necessary, but if I can be doing something I love for a bit less a profit then that's the road I'm going to take.
 
But now about those other four...  :)
  • I remembered today that I had already fallen asleep under the stars a long time ago.  I honestly don't know how I forgot.  On graduation night, my friends and I had the only non-alcoholic party in town.  It was the first real chance that Kyle and I had to talk.  We sat up almost the whole night swapping stories across a rather cliche campfire, and a few hours before morning I drifted off to sleep beneath a brilliant canopy of leaves and branches and stars. 
  • I've been learning to solve my own problems since I moved away from home.  Living in my apartment (which I still say tries to kill me) has been quite the experience.  I find myself making phone calls to my landlords and the electric company and a variety of help desks without a second thought.  I'm managing to teach myself how to cook and bake and clean...and to never buy the cheap light bulbs.  It's slow going, but it's independent going, and that's what counts in my book.
  • I actually did go shopping and buy everything I wanted.  I took my friend Hannah and we spent the entire day indulging in overpriced chocolates, name brand clothes and aimless browsing.  It's an experience every woman should have at least once in a lifetime.  (Funded by college refund money, of course.)
  • Soon after I posted my original list, Stasia from the UK contacted me about becoming pen pals.  We've exchanged one letter a piece so far, and I'm currently writing my second.  :) 
To those of you who participated in the Bucket List Mcklinky back in : 
How have yours been progressing?  Any new goals or discarded goals?  Anything accomplished?
 
To new readers:
Wanna share a Bucket List of your own? 
 
Below is a Mcklinky.  Updates and new lists welcome.
 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dear Readers,

The past few days have been rocky, and my world has been turned upside down more times than I can count, but now that is in the past.  Today there are no more tears, and the worrying is over. Today there is sunshine even through the rain outside my window, and I am ready to face the new day.

So many things have happened.  There were multiple break downs, much laughter, and eventually a new plan for the future was formed.  Much as I would love to write all of it down for you to read, I don't think that the decision making process is really what matters.  The important thing is that uncertainty has been abandoned, and I am running down the path I've chosen at full speed.  Kyle and I are going to be together, and that is enough.

Meanwhile I am living, harboring a secret fire deep in my heart that warms my soul against the chill of a few more lonely months.  Whenever I am discouraged, I have only to remember that the sea of faces around me are completely unaware of this one essential knowledge and suddenly the haze lifts, the waters part, and I am left standing, miraculously unscathed.

I'd like to thank you all for your support and advice.  It did not fall on a closed mind.  I took each and every voice to heart, but in the end, the decision Kyle and I have made is one that we felt best.  The wedding planning continues, presumably for sometime in September or October.  My classes end with this semester, and will resume next January at best.  This summer Courtney and I are both going to Germany.  We're hoping to be there in May.  I have my fingers crossed for a week long visit.  If things continue to go as planned revised, I'll be living in Europe by the end of the year.  And there are other things:  other plans and decisions I can't quite tell you about yet, and probably won't be able to share for quite some time.  You will know, eventually, when a few more clouds have passed overhead.  I think it's a decision of which you'll approve.  I know that's vague, and I'm sorry, but you'll understand in time.

And now the Carrot Show continues as per usual.  You can expect the January and February BoTM awards to be posted within the week.  :)

With much love and best wishes,
Carrie

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dear Kyle,

Today I feel restless.  I don't know what to do with myself.  It's been three days since I last heard from you, and already I'm terrified.  I shouldn't be.  I know where you are (kind of) and why you haven't called.  And yet that doesn't soothe the nervous twisting in my stomach.  I need to toughen up.  If I'm already so upset after three days, what will I do when you're out of touch for the five weeks of that ridiculously long training thing-a-majig that's coming up?  (Yes.  Ridiculous thing-a-majig.)

Lately I've been happy here.  I've been surrounded by my friends, immersed in my courses, and excited about most of my life.  I've even begun to consider enrolling for more classes next semester, but I know I won't in the end.  That would complicate our new plans for a fall wedding, and worse, it would prevent me from moving anytime soon.  The thing that's been scaring me is this:  knowing all of that, I didn't completely rule the idea out.  A tiny piece of me would love to stay and continue at Eastern.  A tinier piece wants to head straight into grad school afterward.  The rest of me is entirely apalled.

I love you.  I miss you.  I want so badly to be with you.  But around every corner are ten more obstacles.  ...or at least that's how it feels.  I think when you told me the wedding would have to be put off it triggered some sort of panic in me.  I had been going along pretending that this would work out perfectly:  that you'd come home and take me back with you, and that my school could pick up where it left off only one semester late when the move was complete.  I really thought it would work.  Alas, my perfect plan was interrupted and now I don't know what to do.  Do I put my whole life on a shelf?  Do I walk away from my old dreams, the only part of me that still belongs to myself, completely?  I don't see anymore compromises. 

I have reached the point where things become black and white.  I either go with you, or stay with me, if that makes sense.  I know that moving this fall doesn't mean that I'll never finish school.   It doesn't mean that there will never be time for me to have a career.  It just means I can't have either of those things on my terms.  It means that my goals will be coming second.  I thought I was fine with that until recently.

I'm not fine with it though.  I'm not just "okay" with walking away from what I've spent so long working toward.  It isn't fair for me to have to give up so much.  I see that now.  I understand what some people have been saying to me from the start.  Now that I really grasp the magnitude of what I'm doing, I am miserable.  It's like I'm in mourning for the life I'm watching slip through my fingers.  Yet earlier, while I was doing a bit of crying and a lot of thinking, I kept coming back to one thing:

I just wanted you there.  I wanted your shoulder to cry on.  I wanted you to tell me that we'll be okay.  I know what I am giving up.  I knew before, but I understand now, and it's harder than I thought.  Everything about this is so much harder than I thought it would be.  It's almost too hard, and it's frightening, but it isn't so difficult that I'm quitting.  I think I'm so miserable because you can't be here to help me through it.  I just don't know how to handle this gracefully...and I'm a complete mess. 

It's decision time, and the choice is already made.  It always has been.  Now it's just a question of whether I can move forward.  I know I can.  I have to.  I need to.  Parts of me are excited for it, but other parts are like a child clinging to her mother's skirt.  So I need you to be there.  I need you to be patient like you always have been, and I need you to keep telling me that I'm going to be okay, because I'm having a hard time convincing myself of that.  Most importantly, I need you to keep wanting me to be there with you as much as I do.  There isn't any room for uncertainty right now.

So, I am not re-enrolling next semester.  I am temporarily shelving my career path.  I am going to have to give up my student's office job.  I am most likely going to start waitressing again.  I am going to write until my heart is content.  I am going to learn to be the best baker this side of the Mississippi.  And I'm going to need to hear you say that you love me a little bit more than usual.

Still yours, forever and for always,
Carrie

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Failed Attempts at Vlogging

Yesterday Brianne and I set out to record a vlog for you guys.  We made around thrity videos and declared them all utter failures.  Below are some images that you might enjoy anyway.  (We had a little too much fun with it.)



I should probably be a little embarrassed about these...but I'm just not.  Today, Kylie (my last apartment-mate and still best friend) is coming to spend the next two days with us.  Maybe the three of us plus Courtney (who we'll drag over from next door) can come up with something better.

If any of you have tips or suggestions for how to produce a proper vlog, COMMENT THEM.  I'll love you forever.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Let it Snow

The past week or so has brought nothing but snow and slush and yuckiness.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE snow, but this isn't normal, pretty, snow-man-and-snow-fort-building snow.  It's the kind that only hangs around for a day or so before becoming a death trap resembling a giant slushy that has been spilled all over Kentucky.  Needless to say, Brianne and I haven't been venturing outside very much. 

Instead we've been crafting.  Below are the finished products of our apartment confinement.

First, we decoupaged boxes.  These two are mine: 

  

Then, we decided to sketch.  Here's my project:


It's not perfect, but in my defense I only put about two hours of work into it.

Brianne's is much better.  It's been two days of work for her so far.  Here is her progress:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Your Answers Revealed:

Julie asked:  Do you worry about your safety since you sometimes put up a little too much information, like your friends' full names, etc?  I ask that only because I've been in the world longer and have seen some not so nice things.  I love reading your blog especially because you worry about things I used to worry about and now know aren't significant.  I know there's a certain naivety, bravery, and immortal feelings with youth.  I wondered if that was part of it.

It may be a little foolhardy, but I really don't worry about it.  I talk about the "innate good of humanity" on my blog a lot, and I really believe what I say.   My mother, among many other people in my life, tells me that I will change my mind one day, that I'll stop being so trusting.  I hope that never happens.  It is only when you believe in an idea that it can flourish and come to life.  I believe that people can be trustworthy, honest, and kind.  I believe that my blog can be used solely to make positive connections with others.  So far I haven't encountered any problems whatsoever, and my fingers stay crossed that things remain the same.

Also, while I do share the actual names of the people in my life, as well as my own, it is never without their knowledge.

Sarah asked:  How do you and Kyle manage to keep your relationship strong despite the long separation that you have been experiencing?  My boyfriend and I tried for so long to do the long-distance thing, and in the end we just couldn't do it.  After 14 months together, we split up because we just grew apart.

Sarah, this is a tough question to answer.  I can't tell you the number of times I have wished there was a guide book to dealing with the distance.  Sometimes it is more than frustrating and often enough it makes me miserable, but more often than not the thing that keeps me going is knowing that it is only a temporary situation.  This separation is a sort of means to an end.  We're journeying toward the same goal, just on two different roads. 

Kyle and I have been unique from the start.  Our relationship has been one challenge after another, but we have a bond that is indescribable, and we both entered into the relationship knowing that we wanted it to be lasting.  That mindset has played a huge role in what has kept us so strong.  I love him more than anything else in my life.  We put each other first...or at least as "first" as the Army will allow.  ;)  He is the best part of me.  He makes me alive, bold, confident, and more compassionate.  He has my whole heart.  In the darker days, all of those things help me carry on. 

I think the most important thing is to always remember that what I do now, here, alone, is still incorporated into what I have to do for us.  Each decision I make is for both of us.  Every achievement is to make our life together better.  We try to keep lines of communication open, even though it can be difficult with the time difference and our busy schedules.  When he calls, whatever I am doing stops.  It's isn't just a conversation, it's our only way of preserving our love.  Even from so far away my life revolves around his.

...there isn't one secret key to making long distance relationships work.  It's strength and patience and a little bit of blind faith, and most importantly, as much love as you can manage.  Maybe a little bit is just luck.

I'm sorry to hear that your relationship didn't work out.  :(  I hope that you both can find happiness elsewhere.  Always remember to take the sad experiences in your life and turn them into learning experiences.  Everything we do takes us to the place we are meant to be later.  Every step makes us stronger.

Bethany asked:  What's your general opinion on valentines? What's the best valentines gift (real or imagined) and what's the worst?

I'm not a Valentines Day hater in the least, and this from a girl who never had the cliche bouquet.  

I've only had one Valentines Day on which I could receive a gift.  Kyle and I were only together for last year's, and before Kyle there wasn't anyone else.  But last year he surprised me with my adorable Pluff, and it was probably the best gift he could have chosen.  (I'd been walking past that stuffed neopet in WalMart with longing for weeks because I thought I was way too old to be buying toys.)

The only Valentines gift that I can think of that would be absolutely awful would be one that wasn't really for the person who receives it...  Like, buying someone your favorite candy instead of theirs, or buying your wife a vacuum.  Luckily that's never happened to me.  ;)

Amy asked:  Where's the sunflower picture quote (at the very bottom of your site) from? I like it.

Amy, the quotation comes from A.S. Byatt's book Possession, but I found it in The Time Traveler's Wife.  It's been my favorite since I discovered it in high school.  I found the sunflower image at photobucket.com.

Jennifer asked:  Where is one place that you never want to move to? and Why?

Jennifer, I don't think I'd mind moving anywhere as long as I wouldn't be moving there alone.  I wouldn't particularly like moving somewhere cold though.  I do hate the cold.

Miffie asked:  What has been your worst partying experience?

Miffie, I honestly haven't had a bad experience.  I'm not much of a party girl.  Sorry, I'm kind of boring in that respect...  

Anonymous bloggers asked the remaining questions:
What is the first thing you think about when you wake up?

It varies.  Nine times out of ten I hit the snooze button and fall right back asleep.  But today I checked the EKU homepage, discovered that campus was closed because of snow, and did a happy dance of epic proportions.  :)

If you could change one thing about your relationship, what would it be?

If you mean something about the inner-workings of our relationship...I wouldn't.  I think Kyle and I handle things well.  That isn't to say that there aren't rough patches, but there is nothing I feel we cannot overcome.

However, I would kill this distance if I could.  It is a constant battle to keep myself from withdrawing from my classes in the middle of the semester and hopping the first plane to Europe.  It may be irrational, but don't we all want to do crazy things when we're in love?  

What's your favorite color and why?

My favorite color changes very often.  At the moment I love teal:  the color of summer skies and swimming pools and those wonderful blue raspberry popsicles.

Who do you admire most?

I admire lots of people.  I admire my mother for her endless strength.  I admire my friends for their ability to make any situation ten times better.  I admire my soon-to-be-sister Courtney for proving every day that real love happens.  I admire authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer for managing to write such amazing stories while caring for their families.  The list is endless, and I don't think I can choose just one.  I even admire readers like you who stick around to brighten my day.  :)

If you could go back to any moment in your life, what would it be?

I think I would go back to the last time I saw my great-grandmother.  It wasn't anything spectacular.  We only sat in her living room making polite conversation, but now I wonder what else I could have asked...what other stories she had to tell that I'll never know about.

I know that most people would have guessed that I'd have chosen a time spent with Kyle, but the way I see it, I have my whole life left to live with him.  My time with my great-grandmother is over, and I miss that time more than I'd ever imagined I would.

Why do you think you and Kyle ended up together?

I honestly couldn't tell you.  Sometimes I think that Kyle and I were "meant" to be together.  There are a thousand little things that could have happened that would have kept us apart, but none of them did.  The course of events that led up to our being together are like a fragile scaffolding.  I feel like if any one thing had been pulled out of the equation we would have come tumbling down.

But really, no matter why we are together, the important thing is that we are.  No matter what brought us to this place, we are in it, and we're both glad for it.  :)


Thanks to everyone who participated!  :)
I hope you all had fantastic Valentines Days.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Post 205: In Which Carrie Offers Up Her Deepest Darkest Secrets for Speculation

I'm hosting my very first Q&A.  I've noticed a lot of blogging ladies doing these posts and it looked like a lot of fun, so I thought I'd try it out.

I'm feeling a little adventurous this weekend, so how's about you, my wonderous 740 followers, offer up those little questions that have been nagging at the corners of your mind?  If you want to know something send me an email with your inquiry.  I'll be doing a post here Monday that answers each and every question I recieve.

You can ask whatever you like.  And one time only you have my guarantee that I'll answer it openly and honestly.  It's like truth or dare, minus the dare, and blog style.  And if you'd like to ask anonymously, that's cool too.  It won't bother me in the least.

Gimme blogging questions.  Ask me for advice.  Pry about my college experiences.  Find out what my favorite color is.  Ask me about my relationship.  (We all know I have a little too much fun talking about that one...)

Anyway, the point is, I would really appreciate a flood of questions to my email when I check in again later.  Now, let me have it.  :)


PS -- HAPPY FRIDAY, LOVES.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Book Reviews

This is a post I've been meaning to make for a while. You may have noticed my reading list over on the right sidebar. Listed there are the novels I wanted to read last year, and crossed off are the ones I made my way through amid my sometimes hectic schedule. Below you'll find my undiluted thoughts on some of the ones I was able to investigate in 2009.  Very soon the sidebar list will be changed to reflect my reading goals for 2010.

--- 

First up, of course, was the last installment in the (somewhat infamous these days) Harry Potter saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling.  Everyone has at least heard of this series, so no introduction is really necessary.  I read this book for the second time in 2009, two years after I originally finished the series.  It was every bit as magical as I remembered and then some.

I was in fifth grade when I first fell in love with the Harry Potter novels, and I have since remained enthralled.  Rowling has the unique ability to write for multiple age groups simultaneously.  Her earlier novels do deal with simpler themes and conflicts because of the heroes' youth, but the complexity and maturity of the books grow with each novel until the wizards and witches of Hogwarts come of age.  However, throughout the entire series, adult readers are keener to catch the seemingly insignificant clues that their children are likely to overlook, and mature audience members are more likely to pick up on a deeper subtext to the fantasy.

Like any hero legend, Harry's story is one that encompasses much more than himself.  It speaks to the enormous power of human love, the omnipresence of evil, and the constant struggle to distinguish what really is for "the greater good."  The prejudice and propaganda that Harry and his friends struggle against in the books echoes similar struggles in our "muggle" life, and the lessons learned are universal. 

There is more than might first meet the eye in this teen series, and I whole-heartedly recomend you give it a chance to prove itself.  You might just decide those "crazy kids" have the right idea after all.

---

Second on my list was Jodi Picoult's novel My Sister's Keeper.  This book's popularity sky-rocketed when the movie hit theatres last summer.  This was also a re-reading for me.  I picked up the novel for the first time while in high school, and ventured into it again when I heard about the movie deal.

Picoult weaves an intricate and heart-wrenching tale of two sisters with lives that have been forcibly intertwined.  When Kate is diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia her parents are given an opportunity to save her, but at the cost of condemning a second, unborn daughter to a life in and out of hospitals as well.

Little sister Anna is a "designer baby" created for the sole purpose of acting as a donor for Kate.  Her whole life she's been looking out for her big sister, putting off Kate's death one surgery at a time.  It's all she's ever known, and she never questioned her duty to her family.  That's why it come as such a shock when Anna decides to sue her parents for medical emancipation:  the right to make her own medical decisions; the right to stop carving out pieces of her body for her sister.  As she and her parents battle in court, Kate is slipping away, badly in need of a kidney transplant only Anna can provide.

Picoult eloquently pens the tale of a family ripped apart and stitched back together by illness, and gives us a stunning ending we couldn't have saw coming.  This book is a masterpiece, highly deserving of its acclaim, and better than its film adaption by a long shot.  I am literally proud to have it on my shelves.

---

Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife is a story about waiting.  Gripped from page one, readers are pulled into a world where the impossible has become a stark reality of loneliness, fear, magic, and sometimes miracles.  The book follows Henry, an unwilling, time-traveling librarian, and Clare, a girl who has known who her husband would be since the age of six, across a life-long star-crossed romance that can be called both beautiful and tormenting.

Henry has the unique privilege of being able to zap into other times, but it's a talent that comes with a high cost.  He cannot control his coming and going.  He is literally pulled from one page of his life into others without warning or any notion of how long he'll be there, and what's worse, he doesn't seem to be able to change anything.  He's simply a bystander, another face in the crowd, observing his own life from the outside.  He misses much of the present because he is called elsewhere, and Clare is left behind to wait as patiently as she can for him to make it home.

The two seem to be soulmates brought together against all odds, but this novel isn't a neat and tidy tale of lovers meeting.  It explores the dynamic problems of their relationship:  how although Henry's traveling is the very thing that brought them together in the past, it is what pulls them apart in the present.  Niffenegger focuses on how the two deal with the constant separations.  She details what things Henry has to learn to survive, what Clare does to stay strong, and eventually, what heartbreaking lengths the two are willing to go to in order to have a family.

In a time when fantasy novels are all the rage, this one finds a way to stand out from the crowd.  The Time Traveler's Wife puts a unique spin on an old motif and renders us speechless by its close.  My hat's off to Ms. Niffenegger for crafting such as story.  I most certainly recomend it, but only if you have a hearty stack of tissues nearby.

---

Suzanne Collins' novel The Hunger Games became ranked among my favorites when I was less than half way through with it.  Collins takes us deep into a dystopian American future where a harsh totalitarian government called "Panem" now resides.  The nation has been divided into districts that lie around a prosperous Capitol, each one with a manufacturing specialty.  In the districts, life is beyond hard.  Food is scarce.  Money, reliable electricity and medication are all but myths among the lower classes.  Hunting outside city limits is prohibited.  The people live in constant terror.

Each year, as a cruel show of power, a Reaping is held.  Two children, one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen as Tributes to represent each district in the nationally televised Hunger Games.  The contestants are forced into an arena with only one rule:  the last child standing wins a year's supply of food to take home to their District, but the children must kill off their competition to reap this award.

When 16 year old Katniss' little sister is chosen as the female Tribute for District 12, Katniss sees no option but to stand in her stead.  In the days that follow, Katniss must harness all her strength and knowledge if she is to survive.  With a love triangle and a plot to overthrow the leaders of Panem thrown into the mix, this is one book I could not put down. 

...Just in case there are any The Hunger Games fan girls out there...Team Peeta, all the way.

---

Have any of you guys read these? 
What did you think?
Have any recommendations for 2010?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Eleven

Today is Wesley's eleventh birthday.
Photobucket

It doesn't seem like he should be growing up so quickly.
It seems like if I try, I can take us back to the hospital on the day we brought him home.
Like I can keep him tiny and sheltered.
But every time I see those big brown eyes I know that no matter how old he is,
no matter how tall he becomes,
how many things he learns,
or how much stronger than me he will someday be,
he'll still be my baby brother.
The one for which I have both the deep rooted need to protect,
and the unique privilege of annoying.  ;)

I love you, kid. 
Always.

Happy 11th Birthday, little brother.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Not Your Typical College Girls' Dinner

Carrie's cooking adventures are back with a bang, and you can credit it in part to Brianne.  She and I have rather snobbish taste in food; we don't settle for the normal college cuisine of Ramen Noodles and pizza deliveries.  Oh no.  Instead we prefer trying out new and sometimes complicated recipes, and having mini dinner parties.  Weird, we know.

Tonight Brianne, Jon, and myself enjoyed this yummy chicken smothered in garlic, peppers, onions and mozzarella cheese, paired with red potatoes roasted with fresh basil, parsley and chives.  It was amazing

Also, of course, no meal is complete without a desert.  So Brianne and I improvised and came up with our own "cake mix doctor" recipe.

Wanna know how we did it?  I thought you might.  There are recipes listed below for your cooking convenience.  : )

Smothered Chicken:

-garlic salt
-crushed red pepper
-chicken breast / chicken breast tenders
-one small onion, diced small
-about half a green bell pepper, diced small
-one clove fresh garlic, minced
-2.5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
-mozzarella cheese slices

1) Begin by warming the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic.  Saute for about five minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
2) Remove vegetables from oil and place in a paper towel lined bowl.
3) Liberally season the chicken breasts with garlic salt and crushed red pepper.  Cook on a George Foreman grill.
4) Place the cooked meat into a baking dish, and completely cover with sauteed vegetables and mozzarella cheese slices.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 450/F for about 15 minutes.

Herb Roasted Potatoes:

-2 lbs red potatoes
-1 TBSP fresh basil
-1 TBSP fresh parsley
-1 TBSP fresh chives
-2 TBSP butter
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp pepper

1) In a medium sauce pan melt butter, stirring in seasonings and herbs.
2) Add potatoes, coating them completely in the mixture.
3) Fold the potatoes into an aluminum foil pouch, place the foil packet into a baking dish, and bake at 450/F for about 30 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked thoroughly.

Chocolate Chunk Butter Pecan Cake
with Mocha Buttercream Frosting:

Cake:

-one box butter pecan cake mix
-1 cup chopped pecans
-1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks

Prepare cake mix as directed, adding pecans and chocolate chunks last. 

Frosting:

-8 TBSP (1 stick) butter at room temperature
-3 3/4 confectioners sugar
-2 tsp vanilla
-1/3 cup cocoa
-4-5 TBSP coffee, prepared

Beat ingredients together with a mixer until smooth.  Frost cake only after it has cooled completely.

PS -- Brianne announced that I looked like Sue Sylvester from Glee in my green jacket today.  I guess I sort-of-kind-of see the resemblance...


PPS -- Since my camera hasn't been working correctly, I've only just been able to snitch the images from the Post Secret lecture with Frank Warren from Brianne.  I updated that post today with the best of our photos, in case you'd like to see it.  We were in the third row, so our pictures turned out fantastic.  : )

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sharing

For the record, I love my creative writing course.  Below are two of the poems produced so far.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Honesty over flattery, always.


Living in the Smiles 

I remember you running beside the train waving good-bye.
Your hand stretches up to mine over and over again like an old movie reel.
Your laughter imparts essential truth, and I smile my sanguine resolve.
We are the happy ending only found in black and white.

I picture you this way. Hold you
in my mind this way: The way I would have had it.

I forget the way tears salted
our last kisses like a wound.
How when I left we could not date
my next arrival, and that memory alone
preserves the tender
moments that splice us together.
The way your reassurance branded deep:
We will meet again.
A film slips over my eyes to salve the sting.

I live in the smiles.
When they run out, I make my own.


Stains

When I was young I watched my mother
scrub oil stains from my father's clothes
early in the mornings.
Sometimes she was a magician
banishing splotches with puffs of detergent smoke.
Other times she was just angry.
The day she deemed his last 'good shirt'
a hopeless case,
she began to bring home black speckled clothing
of her own. She'd scrub
late into the night,
and after a few weeks of this
both she and my father had a drawer
filled with 'good clothes'
they almost never wore.

Once,
when I'd rather have ran free
than be strapped to the table with homework,
she pushed the pen into my tiny hand.
"So you never have to ruin your pretty dresses," she said.
Still I grip that pen,
and it serves me well.
But each night I scrub the ink
from my splattered palms.

PS -- Please don't read too much into the top one.  It is a very overexaggerated version of a real memory that I thought would adapt well into a poem.  I am not a terminally depressed person; I promise.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wedding Update #3

Surprise, surprise; luck is not on Kyle's side for the first time in his life.  (Probably has something to do with the fact that I'm involved.  I have horrid luck.  We always knew mine had to rub off on him eventually.)  He is not going to be able to come home this summer for the June wedding like we had hoped.

I, of course, want to move things overseas and stick to our original time schedule.  Mr. Fiance, on the other hand, wants to wait until we can have a big wedding at home.  Unfortunately for me, I can't drag him to a German alter.  He's just too strong after all that Army training.  So I suppose the wedding is going to be postponed until this fall.  Probably sometime in September or October.  August would be the very earliest.

While I like that August is the closest date, the sooner he comes home the less time he'll be able to stay here.  (He gains 2.5 days of leave per month.)  So it's looking like September is the way to go.  : /    It could be much worse, but it could also be better.

There are a few good things that come out of this...even if they don't quite make me thrilled --
  1. I have a definite (Ha!  That's a laughable thought, at this point.) time frame to work with now.
  2. It puts an end to the indoor/outdoor debate.  A fall wedding will be indoor, with maybe a few outdoor photos, due to weather constraints.  It gets quite chilly around here in the fall.
  3. I don't have to worry about which guests could make the international trip.
  4. I'll definitely have to take a full year away from college, as I'll be moving to Germany between next school year's semesters.  That means I'll have PLENTY of free time to plan the details of the wedding, the move, and possibly even squeeze in some time for real writing. : )
  5. Kyle's agreeing to another trip to Germany this summer to visit since it will take longer for us to be together now.  And I plan to see a castle next time around.  ; )
  6. My mom can stop stressing about a passport.  She's called me half a dozen times asking questions about the process, and now it isn't even an issue.
Despite all that, I can't help being disappointed.  I hate that we have to keep postponing the end of this separation.  I hate the waiting.  Sure, I'm willing to do it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.  

To sum up my thoughts on the wedding planning, I'll give you one of the few German phrases I've learned so far:

Es geht sehr schlecht.  :(