I just got finished updating my December calendar because I know this month is going to screw me up. I already have weekends switched around in my brain – like, “Which weekend are we going to Charlotte, again? Oh, I thought that was the weekend I had to be at the arena allllll day! Oops!” I have my dates screwed up partially because for the past year, dates really didn’t mean a whole lot to me. Every day was basically a Saturday. I could stay up late every night, sleep in late every morning, and do whatever I pleased during the day. Not that I actually did that, mind you. Most nights I was asleep by 11 and up around 8:00. And I know, I know, 8:00 is absolutely sleeping in when you’re a member of the working world, but it’s not like I slept until Noon, which is what my parents believed.

Ah, my parents. We spent the holiday weekend with them, my brother and his wife, and my uncle in Whitehall, PA. Because no one knows where Whitehall is, it’s easier to say Allentown. But when I say Allentown, it generally congers images of a depressed, run-down former industrial city – all true – so I’ve started to say ‘Lehigh Valley,’ because that’s honestly where they are. They’re in the Lehigh Valley, in Whitehall Township, not far from the depressed and dreary Allentown.

So, anyway, that’s where we were. The drive up was broken by an overnight visit at Jason’s and the drive home was interrupted by a trip to Ikea and some Swedish meatballs. (Allan’s a big fan of those meatballs.) And the whole way in the car, we listened to The Lovely Bones on CD. We have about two hours left on the CD, which I think we’ll probably finish this weekend. Thank God for those books on CD, man, because they do a great job of breaking up the monotony of eight hours in the car. They give you something to focus on and concentrate on, and, in the case of suspense books, they leave you on the edge of your seat for most of the ride. Which is far better than splitting split ends out of sheer boredom.

While in PA we went to one of those furniture liquidation centers or something and I found a beautiful rug that I liked for the living room. I liked it. I liked it a lot. And Allan liked it, but here’s a HUGE difference between me and Allan: I’m impulsive and he is not. I thought, “Hey! We both dislike our current rug and this one’s a super deal, so let’s get it!” That same thought train didn’t run through Allan’s head. He only caved because Jason and Laurie strolled over to see the rug and gave it an enthusiastic thumb’s up. But the whole time, Allan was hemming and hawing about not knowing if it was a good quality rug, if it would fit in either my car or the living room, if it was the right thing to do. Blah, blah, blah. And I was rolling my eyes because it was less expensive than dinner at Outback. For real. But the rug fit in my car and it not only changes the whole look and feel of our living room, it looks really nice.

So, now we have the Love Rug – purchased for our dining room as my Valentine’s Day gift – and the Strife Rug.

You know how there’s a State of the Union address every year? Well, here’s my State of the Allie address for this afternoon. I’m working on Murphy’s official 2011 calendar (yes, he has one, but only one person wants it and it’s his grandma), my asthma is driving me crazy, and I have a toothache.

Let’s go backwards through that list, shall we, and I’ll give you details.

I have a tooth that’s been bothering me for about three days, but this is the first day I can say it’s feeling like a toothache. The other days, it feet like typical orthodontics-related irritation. And I’m wondering if this isn’t more of the same, so I’m going to pop a few Advil and ride it out before freaking at the thought of another cavity. And no, this isn’t one of my three ‘baby cavities’ I need to get filled by January 1. That’s a self-imposed deadline, y’all. As it currently stands, the cavities are so tiny, I need no shots or drills, and I’d like to get them taken care of while that’s still the case.

Um, the asthma. So I’m sitting downstairs, reading while I should be cleaning, and I feel like a little elephant has just taken a seat on top of my lungs. Then I start wheezing. Then I look out the window and it looks a little dreary. Then it rains. I really ought to know that when my asthma starts getting all irritable, something funky’s going on with the weather. That rain is immanent. I’m basically as reliable as The Weather Channel. If you live in Raleigh and want to know whether it’s going to rain on your parade, give me a call and I’ll consult my lungs.

And then there’s Murphy and his calendar. I made it last year because I thought it would be cute… and I thought it would be a one-time occurrence. Like, oh, look! We got a puppy! Let’s make a calendar and give it to his grandparents! Well, one of his grandparents has requested that it become a yearly thing, which is cool, but it’s a total pain in the ass. I’ve sorted through this year’s pictures and now they’re uploading to Shutterfly. And all the while, Murphy’s annoying the crap out of me. He’s pacing around the house waiting for his BFF Rigatoni to show up so they can play together. But remember the rain I told you about? Murphy doesn’t understand that water falling from the sky tends to keep people inside, so he’s stuck trying to get me to play with him and his Santa stuffed animal.

Internet, my dog loves stuffed animals, long walks in the sunshine and sleeping on floral duvet covers. Want him?

Right now he’s one of my top priorities, actually. More specifically, his mental and emotional health. You see, I’ve been home with him every day for nearly a year and it’s about to come to an abrupt halt. I got a job. No, I’m not kidding, I actually got a job. And I’m scheduled to report for day numero uno on December 6. The whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys and hows will come later. I’m overly cautious and somewhat superstitious about those things, so I’ll share more when my foot is officially in the door.

And now Murphy is running around with his koala stuffed animal. In case you’re wondering who buys him these things, it’s my husband.

I’m sipping from a mug of tea, which I guess could be my dinner. When Allan’s not home, I don’t really bother to make anything. What’s the point? Cooking for one is a hassle and it’s not really worth it.

Allan had a meeting at the opposite end of the state today and he won’t be home until close to 9:00. It’s been me and Murphy all day, stuck inside the house because of the chilly, rainy, dreary weather. I hate days like this. I’ve been extremely tired for the past few days. Like, as soon as I wake up, I feel like I need to hurry back to sleep. That’s no exaggeration. I’d be worried, thinking that maybe I have the plague or something, but I’m assuming it has to do with stress and this awful weather.

Allan was out of town this weekend, too. He went to the mountains with some friends where they hiked, climbed rocks and camped. It’s all stuff that he loves to do – my husband is a very outdoorsy guy – and I’m glad he went. I, on the other hand, had a totally girlie weekend full of shopping and topped off with an evening with two of my best girlfriends. For nearly seven hours we talked, watched crappy movies and ate delicious, greasy pizza. And earlier in the week, I had lunch with another girlfriend which lasted a wonderfully long time. So, all-in-all it was a good girl week for me.

Today marks the legal end of my Krizmanichness, which is sad for me. I don’t feel like I belong to my new last name yet. It feels weird. I have a bank card with my new name, and I get mail with my new name, and soon my driver’s license and Social Security card will arrive with my new name, and it all feels so weird. Who is this person? It certainly doesn’t feel like me yet. I don’t think there’s anything I identify with more than my name, so to change it after 30 years is going to take some getting used to.

Today when I told my New Jersey friend, John, about the name switch-a-roo, he couldn’t believe I dropped my middle name in favor of my maiden name. Never heard anything like it, he said, and he also said it sounds like my new name was given to me at some masochistic orphanage. As in, it’s so bad, why would anyone name their child such a thing? Which I thought was funny. But I stand by my decision. I never cared about Ann. It didn’t mean anything to me. In fact, I hated that two of my initials were the same letter and I vow to never do the same to my children.

Speaking of my new name, it’s basically all Spanish now. Which means my new email address gets bombarded with messages in Spanish. Catch is, I’m not Spanish. Neither is my husband. Nor is anyone else in his family. Navajo, yes. English and Irish and French, yes. Spanish, Mexican, South American, no.

And today, in addition to getting a new last name, a childhood dream came to an end: Prince William is engaged. Le sigh. My mom said, “Sorry, Lee Lee! But at least you have Allan!”

My teeth hurt and I’m uber stressed. How are YOU doing, Internet? Do your teeth hurt, too? Are you also stressed and confused and unsure of where place a step? Or is it just me? It’s probably just me.

My teeth hurting is an easy thing to explain. I got a new wire put on my bottom jaw, and for the first time, all of my lower teeth are moving in unison and it hurts like hell. And I can’t find the Advil. But – and this is a big but (kinda like mine!) – my bottom teeth are straight. They’re lined up pretty perfectly and it’s a sight my eyes have never seen. Back in the day, my top teeth were straight. Narrow jaw, ugly smile, but straight teeth. That wasn’t the case on the bottom. They never went in a row. Instead they looked like some horror movie’s monster teeth.

Not anymore. Smiley face goes HERE.

The stress is more difficult to explain.

On Tuesday morning, upon emerging from the dentist’s office with three ‘baby cavities’ that don’t even need Novocaine(!), I learned that my father suffered a heart attack. Thankfully it was mild as those things go, and yesterday he had a heart catheterization, which was used to take a closer look at the problem and bust up the blockage. It could have been much, much worse. And if my father doesn’t make some serious lifestyle changes, it will be much worse in another few years. Internet, he’s scared shitless. At one point we were talking to each other and were both crying. It was a rough few days. But I’m hoping that his fear of losing his life will push him to make those changes – namely, to quit smoking. He – my father – is blaming this whole ordeal on cigarettes. And before he leaves the hospital today, the newly minted cardiac patient has to attend a smoking cessation course. It’s mandatory and he seems fully committed to taking this step. He wants to get on the patch, take the prescription (can’t remember what it’s called) and will be assigned a sponsor he can call when he needs to talk to someone.

He says he wants to spend as much time with his grandchildren as possible.

I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t know if you remember, but in April my mother had pneumonia, was hospitalized, vowed to quit smoking, and quickly went back to her multiple-pack-a-day habit. It makes me sick to even think about it, so I’m going to stop typing about it.

So, clearly my father’s ordeal was my number one stressor. But the dentist is a big thing for me. I’m so scared every time I go. And on Monday I had to get blood drawn. Lots of blood. Vials and vials. And I also had to get a TB test. And I have to get another TB test on Monday.

Why so many needles, you may be thinking. Well, I’ve decided to start volunteering at a local hospital, and in order to volunteer, you have to be cleared for certain diseases and such. Thus the pricks. But I’m so happy about it. On Monday I had an all-day orientation and it made me excited about my new little adventure. I’ll get to spend several hours each week doing nothing but helping people, which is what brings me more joy and satisfaction than nearly anything else. It’s something I’m passionate about.

And there are other stressful things, but why type about them and get MORE stressed out?

I think this is so cute, though. Murphy, I may have mentioned, is quite emotionally attuned to me. When I’m stressed, he likes to climb on top of me, lay on my torso, and rest his little face on my shoulder. And he weighs 70lbs. But there’s no stopping him. If I’m upset, he assumes his position and stays there, I guess until he thinks I’m better. And the thing is, I generally AM better when he gets off of me because how could I not be? I just had a creature oozing with love laying directly above my heart.