I got my car's smog certification done on December 23rd, got up early the next day, and was at the DMV just after they opened. Thirty minutes later my car was properly registered. I've already sent a check to the insurance company. The Saturn is officially mine now. Thanks, Dad and Mary Lou. It's a great car. I am giddy with the freedom it bestows.
By the way, Trish figured out how to make the clock show instead of the radio station. It is a plain and simple fact that I do not have the technology gene and am an embarrassment to the younger generation. Or a source of amusement, either of which is fine as long as they help me when my gizmos aren't working right. I went to see her on the 22nd and we hung out watching the Food Network, gossiping, and marveling at the wonderful new things in store for us this next year. She gave me three books I particularly wanted to read: A.S. Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden, Adam Gopnik's essay collection Paris to the Moon, and Lisa Hilton's biography of Athénaïs de Montespan. I now have the almost mind-boggling luxury of twenty-six unread books on my shelf. I hardly know where to start.
December 24th was a quiet, pleasant day, the early visit to the DMV not withstanding. I did little besides play the Sims, read a Daisy Dalrymple mystery, eat my own weight in pistachios and fruitcake, and fall asleep on the sofa. We had our first real fire in our fireplace. We snuggled on the sofa and watched it burn. The chimney draws perfectly, not a hint of smoke or backdraft. The tree's twinkling lights and shiny ornaments looked even prettier in firelight, and the two cats enjoyed the additional warmth although the dog was dubious about the whole business.
John went to our friends' open house but I opted not to go even though it would have been a lot of fun. It was hard to say no, but I decided it was the right thing to do. I'd noticed while John and I were having lunch Monday after signing off on our refinanced mortgage that my mind was racing the way it does when I'm anxious but not wanting to admit it. I couldn't get myself to stop planning out the future, my trick for not thinking about the present. I tried conscienciously to slow the rattling pace of my nerves, but I didn't actually calm down until after getting my car smogged, as the quaint saying goes. That was helpful, a break in the bureaucratic dam which meant I could move forward on everything else I needed to get done. Still, it wasn't wise of me to ignore my original plan to stay home and relax over the holiday. Instead, I was on the road and socializing or running errands every single day. I met my obligations, but at a price I'm tired of paying.
I think the biggest challenge before me is not, as you might think, trying to write the novel, or learning German, or even getting used to not being in school. I think it's going to be allowing myself sufficient quiet time away from everything and everyone. I have to find the correct balance between doing and simply being.
Christmas Day has been perfect. We slept in, a rare and blissful experience. The house is very festive looking with all the colored paper and ribbons and boxes strewn about the living room. I received the one thing I asked for, new cell phones with voicemail service, text messaging, and longer battery life. They're tiny little things, all gleaming silver and fancy screens, with the service already turned on and the same numbers we had before. Even the charger is tiny. My old black Samsung resembled a channel changer, frankly, not a modern cell phone. I'm so happy John took care of this.
My surprise gift was a silver, hard-sided, rolling suitcase that is regulation size for carrying on a plane. It's roomy and tough, perfect for long vacations to foreign countries. I've needed a rolling suitcase for the last four years but never found what I wanted. I kept making do with a soft-sided suitcase with a big strap which always bothered my shoulder after half an hour of hefting it around. I'm especially pleased it's not black. Silver is so techno and unusual; it should be a lot easier to spot on the luggage carousels. I also received a DVD/CD wallet which I desperately need now that I travel with a laptop. I'm all set for our European trip in May. So is John: I gave him guidebooks on Poland and Germany, and a Polish phrasebook with pronunciation guide. We are having fun working out what we want to see besides the obvious ancestral villages.
John's surprise gift was a DVD player for the tv room. Now we can watch our DVDs in comfort instead of sitting too close to our G4 or using the fairly limited DVD player Apple provides on the iBooks. Like the cell phones, we'll both enjoy using it.
I received graduation gifts from the friends whose open house I didn't go to (and who, in case you're wondering, have asked not to be named here). The wife gave me a handsome Frank Lloyd Wright-designed letter opener, an item I actually needed, and the husband gave me a sponge thingy for defogging the car quickly on the inside. It smells like lemongrass and should finally drive out the lingering scent of the vile coconut air "freshener" the previous owner had in the Saturn. I like coconut to eat, I just don't like it as a scent. The couple also gave us ultra cheesy Lord of the Rings "goblets" with special bases that feature a red light. I believe they were purchased at Burger King last year as promotional items. I got Aragorn, worse luck, and John got Frodo. The red light makes any beverage look magical and mysterious, but it's hell drinking out of them with that bright light directly in your eyes.
The pets received gifts from my parents (poor parents! No grandchildren to spoil. They have to make do with buying dog treats and cat toys, but we're grateful all the same). The four of us will exchange Christmas gifts when John and I head to Palm Desert mid-January. Janice Murray and Alan Rosenthal made me a graduation gift of a free ticket to Seattle for the symphony concert we're attending the first weekend in February. The best part about it is how normal it feels to be writing that. A concert? Sure! Voice lessons? This fall, I hope. The mp3 player I have doesn't hold enough music so I'm going to get an iPod. Of course! The years of denying myself music are completely over. I've spent a year immersed in listening to and playing music. Non-issue. You don't know how grateful I am to be able to say that.
Altogether I feel rich in love and spirit and material things. Life has changed consistently for the better over the six years I've been keeping this diary. I've worked damned hard for some of those changes but still it amazes me at how well it's all turned out. May your life be as rich and fulfilling as you can possibly imagine.