+Tuesday, November 08, 2005+
First and foremost, to my darling, the love of my life, my soldier, my best friend - HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I wish I could be celebrating it with you; there's so much we're missing together this year - my birthday, yours, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, 2 Valentine's Days - but we have our whole lives to spend making it up. I love you and in just about 3 and a half months, this separation will be over and we'll have our long overdue reunion! :)

There's really nothing new going on - I got to wish Matt a happy birthday last night even though it wasn't technically his birthday (not in the states anyway - it was over there). My best friend's birthday was on Saturday and we celebrated with a girls' night on the town...apparently I get along well with people born in the month of November!! Virgos and Scorpios like peas and carrots (if you believe in astrology). With no birthdays left to worry about until January, I've transferred my focus onto Christmas. I'm a last minute shopper, which is very detrimental because I'm also a girl who hates crowds. Can't stand 'em. So I've decided to step out of my normal routine and get all of my shopping out of the way before Thanksgiving. The day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year, and you won't find me within 3 miles of a mall because I plan on already having my shopping done!!

This Christmas will be the first in 5 years I'll be spending with my entire family (my parents and my brothers are what I classify as my "entire family" - I don't mean distant relatives here). Also included in the clan this year will be both my brothers' wives, and one of my sister-in-law's parents, sister, and aunt. Enormous Christmas celebration. Minus Matt of course, which saddens me in a way I can't even describe. I'm spending Christmas this year with both my brothers - something I haven't done since I was 18 - but Matt is a part of the family now, too, and it just feels empty without him.

I was worried I might not even get to spend Christmas with my family this year at all. Everyone's congregating in Phoenix and my parents are driving down (my dad has this thing with having his own car wherever he goes), but I couldn't take as much time off work as I'd need to drive down with them - with the wedding and the honeymoon coming up next year, I can't afford to take any vacation time until then (save for a day or two for Matt's homecoming). I can't afford a plane ticket for the same reason I can't take vacation time - the wedding and the honeymoon. If I were to dip into the wedding savings even just a tiny bit, the wedding would suffer a huge blow because of it. I imagined celebrating Christmas with my mom and dad a week early and spending Christmas day alone with my pets. Thankfully this won't be the case - my mom and dad's early Christmas gift to me was a plane ticket to Phoenix so I don't have to take any time off work. I have to deal with the nightmare of flying during the holidays, but at least I don't have to spend Christmas alone.

With the egregious amount of people we'll be spending the holiday with (our Christmases are usually small and meager so 11 or so people is a pretty big amount for my family), we've decided simply to do a gift exchange instead of buying specific gifts for people. So I have to buy 10 gifts that can be useful to either a man or a woman, and I'm drawing a blank. Gift exchange gifts always end up seeming really corney, so I'm thinking a variation of 10 bottles of wine, hard liquor, etc. Who wouldn't appreciate a nice bottle of Bailey's for Christmas? I really don't have a clue what else would make a good unisex gift - I'm worse at gift exchange gifts than I am at picking things out for individuals. Any suggestions out there?

I also have to pick out things for Matt's parents and sister. This is proving to be a little easier this year than last - quite an anomaly, isn't it? Once you get to know a person better and discover their interests, it gets easier to buy a gift for them at Christmas. Go figure. LOL. Last year I did most of my shopping on the internet and our dog destroyed just about every package that passed over our fence. He's a harmless little border collie-beagle mix (I call him a "Beagle Collie") whose bark is worse than his bite, so upon hearing his "vicious" hound yelp, UPS men, FedEx men, and postmen alike, just toss packages over the fence, thus basically inviting the dog to tear them apart. Is it his fault that he thinks a flying cardboard box is a toy? Probably not. Matt had to console me for hours over my ripped up gifts, and I still gave them out, wrapped with a tag that said they were from the dog. The lesson learned here was that I should, in the future, have all packages shipped to my office.

Since the original gift I got for Matt's dad - an Oakland A's daily calendar - was, for the most part, destroyed, my back up gift was a pen. A PEN. I'm so mortified that I got my future father-in-law a freaking PEN - not one of the $150 ones, but a nice one nonetheless. I have to get him a better gift this year, and can't do much else other than laugh at myself for getting him a stupid pen last year. I think it's possible and very likely that fathers-in-law are the hardest group of people to buy gifts for. I'm thinking I might just put both their names on the gift I'm getting for Matt's mom - it's a hobby that they both enjoy, I think - but would that be a total cop out? Picking out that "perfect gift" is not my forte. I'm always looking for the easy way out with gifts - like gift certificates or 10 bottles of mediocre wine...I believe wish lists should be required.

I have a couple wedding planning updates, but work is piling up on my desk, so I think I'll save them for another post. There should be a disclaimer that goes along with little girl's fantasies about their dream weddings: "This will cost a lot of money" or "This will cause you so much stress, you might start to question your sanity" or "This will spark a fight between you and your mom that will prevent you from speaking to each other for a couple weeks." Nonetheless, there's always that underlying hint of total excitement in everything, but I'll update more on that later! :)

wishing matt was here @ 11:38 AM+

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