Here's a smattering of what I've been up to since last time I posted...
I am currently in my third week of being an engaged woman, and I still am getting used to it! I often find myself referring to Thomas as my boyfriend, then immediately realizing that he's now my fiance! We have done a few wedding planning-type things, but nothing too much yet. The biggest reason stems from our one big choice...the date! After a little bit of thought, we've settled on July 15, 2017 as the big day!!! Yes, I know, July in Oklahoma is borderline insane, but it'll be just fine! We've also pretty well picked out our wedding party. Although I easily could have picked more, I've settled on six bridesmaids. A good part of having a full Catholic wedding Mass is the fact that you get to include even more friends/family because you need lectors/altar servers/gift bearers/Eucharistic Ministers/etc. That alone made my bridesmaid choice a little easier! I like that we have a longer engagement, because the chaos will be more spread out, but I also find myself wanting to hurry up and get lots of stuff figured out. I'm in a weird in-between time of it being too soon to book some things or to go dress shopping. Wedding planning will most likely be in full swing once school is out in May!
In a similar vein, telling people about our engagement has been lots of fun! The days immediately proceeding our engagement were filled with phone calls, long conversations, and an onslaught of social media attention. I LOVED getting to tell our family members and our St. John's friends who have fully seen Thomas and I's relationship come to fruition. (Fun fact: Many of our SJ friends secretly wanted Thomas and I to date long before we realized it...sometimes, you just know!) Letting my students know was also fun, but I never directly told them...I waited for them to notice my ring :) It turns out that high school students are much more observant of those things than I gave them credit for! All but two of my classes picked up on it on the first day!
Speaking of students, I'm officially done with my first semester of teaching! It was a whirlwind, but I'm still surviving! Semester testing left me fairly unscathed, and I had all of my grades in by the time I left for break! Woohoo!!! (Let's temporarily disregard the fact that I still have lessons to plan for all classes within the next week...we don't need that kind of negativity!) I'm not looking forward to next semester, only because it is absurdly busy between extracurriculars, testing, and everything else.
This past weekend, I took the train down to Dallas to see Thomas and my future in-laws! I had a great time getting to be in the big city, which really helped to get me in vacation mode! Highlights of this trip included Thomas's middle school reunion (yes, that really happened), an engagement party of sorts (thrown by Thomas's parents!), a Christmas light "tour", dinner with two of Thomas's cousins, and lots of fun relaxation! The engagement party was great because it allowed me to meet lots of Thomas's family friends/neighbors who I always hear about but have yet to meet. As always, the trip went much too quickly, but Thomas will be making his way down here tomorrow for our Christmas festivities :)
Ah, yes, Christmas. I really haven't been much in the Christmas spirit this year. At first, I attributed it to being busy with the end of the semester and whatnot, but once I finished school, I realized that I just wasn't feeling it as much this year. I mean, I've purchased my gifts, wrapped them, listened to every version of almost every Christmas carol, but I still just didn't feel right. It wasn't until yesterday when I was out finishing up my shopping that I got to the root of my issue. I miss Mimi. A lot.
I like to think I've handled her death pretty gracefully so far, knowing that she couldn't live forever and that she was in no condition to keep living the way she was. Starting work, people's birthdays, and even Thanksgiving wasn't as difficult as I anticipated it to be (until Aunt Carol died that day). But yesterday, I really hurt. I found myself crying through the opening verses of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" at Mass last night (that's always one of my favorites). I saw a "Dennis the Menace" Christmas special on TV and practically lost it. I guess I never truly realized how big of a part Mimi played in my Christmas traditions until now.
Christmas Eve for the past five or so years has consisted of me picking Mimi up from her house, bringing her over for a nice three-course supper of salad, roast or salmon, and chocolate pudding dessert (foods she enjoyed but rarely ate). We'd always have the classic TV show channel playing and one year in particular, I remember seeing that same "Dennis the Menace" special while she was there. I remember proudly walking into church with Mimi in tow, sitting next to her and holding her hymnal while we gleefully sang the Christmas carols. I remember everyone flooding us after Mass to tell her hello and wish her a Merry Christmas. I remember taking her home, when she'd sometimes get her Christmas gifts from us. Mom would usually find her a nice Alfred Dunner outfit or a pajama set. She'd always cry tears of joy becuase of how beautiful her new outfits were, a trademark of people who grew up during the Depression. We'd leave her after she was ready for bed, and we'd gleefully tell each other, "Merry Christmas!" Going home was very serene.
This is Christmas Eve to me, and it will always be that way in my mind. This year was different, and I'm sure new traditions will come about through the years, especially after Thomas and I get married and start a family. Even so, my heart hurts right now. Not only do I miss Mimi, but I also miss Uncle Joe and Aunt Carol. I miss going to Uncle Joe and Aunt Genevieve's beautiful home and enjoying meat that he smoked especially for the occasion. I miss telling him about all that I've been up to since the last time we spoke. I even miss him trying his hardest to convince me to be an engineer like he was! I miss seeing and laughing with Aunt Carol when we celebrated Christmas at Mimi's house. I miss her big hugs and her booming laugh. I miss it all.
I know it's not right to dwell on the past because it keeps us from enjoying the present, but right now it's one thing that brings me a little bit of solace, even if it still makes me sad. I know death isn't the end and that they're all waiting for me and that love transcends death. I get it. I'm still sad, and I still miss them, but life goes on.
On a less depressing note, we're having our Christmas festivities tomorrow. Because we love non-traditional Christmas food, we're having a collection of soups, salads, and breads. I'm also making a coconut cheesecake, just for Scotty! Thomas will even get to join us! :) This will be my first time to have someone here with me for a Hladik Christmas! I'm really excited!
The weather forecast isn't looking too promising for this weekend, which bums me out a little bit. I don't mind some snow, but I really hate ice and sleet, which is what they're mostly predicting. Fingers crossed that they're wrong and that our electricity stays intact for the duration!!!!!
Stay warm, and have a very Merry Christmas!