Thursday, January 26, 2012

The First Sick Day

I reached another milestone in the land of independent adulthood this week: The First Sick Day. Sure, I’ve been ill since I graduated high school, but I never missed class because of it. I got a couple of sinus infections and one raging bout of bronchitis, but I got the flu while at home over a Christmas break and mono during finals week of my senior year, so I never had a sick day all through college.

But this past Monday, I woke up at 5:30 to get ready for the gym and while I was packing my bag, a dizzying wave of nausea hit me, and I puked. I rarely throw up, so I’m a huge wimp when it happens. I always cry, I always get shaky, I always feel really sorry for myself, and I always tuck myself back into bed after strategically placing a trash can next to it. This time, I also had to text my boss and say, “I puked. I’m going back to bed. I’ll be in later.” Being an hourly employee without health insurance, I cannot afford to miss work.

I woke up again around 9 and dragged myself to work, still feeling very sorry for myself. I don’t remember much of the day, other than wondering why I didn’t stay in bed. I went to bed on a mostly empty stomach, determined to feel better in the morning, even setting my alarm for 5:30 again.

On Tuesday I got up at 5:30, put on my workout clothes, and ate a cereal bar so I wouldn’t be working out on a totally empty stomach. Ten minutes later, as I voided my stomach of said cereal bar, I acknowledged in the self-punishing recesses of my brain that some day in the distant future I’ll be doing this every morning for, like, three months. The joys of womanhood.

Still in my workout clothes, I repeated the (crying, shaking, pitying) routine from Monday morning and went back to bed. At 8am, I learned one of the best lessons thus far since living on my own: if you can’t live with your mom, live with a nurse. When Jessica got home from the night shift, she responded to my SOS text message by coming in to check on me, then going to the store to buy me lots of chicken noodle soup and Sprite. Incidentally, the only comfort Lil Smoky offered was contingent on my possession of said soup. When I ate it she wasn’t interested in me any more.

As far as sick days go, this one was a pretty good one. I was too sick to get out of bed, but not sick enough to be consigned to the bathroom floor. I spent the morning watching episode after episode of Downton Abbey (which is why-didn’t-anyone-make-me-watch-this-sooner good), and then I slept the afternoon away. I completed my self-prescribed regimen of crackers, Sprite, and British accents by watching Pride & Prejudice and then going to sleep again. I was back at work on Wednesday, still a bit foggy but not pukey, and after a restful weekend (in which I may watch every episode of Downton Abbey again) I’m sure I’ll be completely back to normal.

But that’s not to say that I still don’t miss my mommy when my tumbly is rumbly.

Friday, January 13, 2012


For the past few years, countdowns have freaked me out. During my junior year, I didn’t want to think about my departure from Oxford zooming ever nearer. And during my senior year, I didn’t want to think about getting thrust into the cold, harsh world with merely a liberal arts diploma in hand. I wanted the sad and boring days to end themselves, and the blissful days to stretch on forever.

But since June, my life has been all about countdowns. All during the workday I focus on the dwindling hours until 5:00. On Monday evening, I think, Just do that four more times. Then there were the countdowns to Thanksgiving and Christmas, which brought longer respites from work, dirty laundry, and feeding myself.

This week-- my first full week back since before Christmas-- was chock full of unexpected turns of events. I turned in a fellowship application (you’ll know when I know), landed my first paid writing gig (freelance ad copy for a small company), and finally got a position as a volunteer ESL tutor (after completing the training in October). If those weren’t big enough causes for excitement, I finally acted with some (planned) spontaneity and made some plans.

Last week I was chatting with Abbie, one of my best friends from the Oxford days. We started reminiscing and wishing I could come visit, and I started to casually look into plane tickets. By Monday, I’d secured the funds and my boss’s blessing, and I booked my ticket for the first week of March. I’m going back to Oxford in 48 days.

In the midst of that process, my dad gently told me that my sister was feeling quite neglected. I had made vague promises to visit her at Baylor, but hadn’t done any research into plane tickets. When my dad told me her feelings were hurt, my heart dropped into my stomach. Being the self-centered girl that I am, I hadn’t even considered that my enthusiasm for going to England would communicate to my sister that I didn’t care to come see her. On Monday, before purchasing my ticket to England, I bought a plane ticket to Texas. I’m going to infiltrate my sister’s college life in 42 days.

The day after booking the tickets, I had a sudden, panicky feeling that I’d book my trip to England on the day I was supposed to see The Avett Brothers in Wichita with my right-hand man. I whipped out my planner and rifled through it, tearing a page in the process. The concert is in 58 days.

Have you noticed how close together these countdowns are? All three of those trips are happening inside a 17-day span. Just writing down my itineraries made me almost dizzy with joy.

It’s as the Roman philosopher Seneca said: “Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”

As for me, the anticipation of traveling, of seeing new and familiar things, of reuniting with beloved faces, has already brought renewed vigor to my days.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Shelf

I’ve told you this before, but I love books. And I don’t mean “love” in the same way I love burritos or fluffy socks. Books are my lifeblood. One of the few passions in my life that has never grown cold.

I’ve rejected purchasing a shirt because it was twenty dollars, only to turn around, walk into Barnes & Noble, and drop twenty dollars on books. I’ve never regretted buying a book.

The other day I uttered these words: “I’m never going to buy my kids toys. But they can have all the books they want.” I wasn’t completely joking.

Once, I actually got a little weepy in a bookstore as I browsed the shelves, overwhelmed by a desire to read everything at once, and a sorrow that even when I die, I’ll have missed something.

You get the idea.

I’ve been toying with the idea of setting a reading goal for 2012. Initially, I thought I’d set reading a certain number of books as a goal, and then race to it as fast as my Amazon Prime membership could carry me. But then, the other night I walked into my room and was met by the spines of all my books looking up at me. I suddenly noticed all the books that I had purchased and that have been loaned to me that I’ve never read, but prominently display on my shelves. Why don’t you like us? they asked. Please, give us a chance! Guilt-ridden, I counted them and arranged them as best as I could on a singular shelf on one bookcase.                                                                           

So here it is: The Year of The Shelf. This year, I’m going to make it through as many of these thirty-six titles as I can. Mathematically speaking, I could do it by reading three a month, but as the pictures demonstrate, some are much lengthier than others. My hope is that there are enough shorter ones to even out the tomes.

What do you think of The Shelf? Have you read any of these? Where do you think I should start? I’ll post my progress throughout the year, in addition to the regularly scheduled Friday 500 programming.

[left to right and top to bottom]

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
Same Kind of Different As Me, Ron Hall and Denver Moore
Habits of the Mind, James Sire
Just Courage, Gary Haugen
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
Giant, Edna Ferber
The Living, Annie Dillard
Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger
Paris 1919, Margaret MacMillan
The World is Flat, Thomas L. Friedman
A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving
The Count of Monte Christo, Alexandre Dumas
These is my Words, Nancy E. Turner
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Native Son, Richard Wright
The Faith, Chuck Colson
Nervous Conditions, Tsitsi Dangarembga
The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey
Persuasion, Jane Austen
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
Light in August, William Faulkner
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
The Inklings, Humphrey Carpenter
Rebel Angels, Libba Bray
“A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, Samantha Power
The River of Doubt, Candice Millard
In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson
My Lucky Life in and out of Show Business, Dick Van Dyke
The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis, Alan Jacobs
From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook on Myth and Fantasy, Matthew Dickerson & David O’Hara

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011: The Year in Photos

2011 started with shooting gingerbread
houses with a shotgun.
January: It snowed. A lot.

February: Got the coolest bruise ever when
I fell up (yes, up) the stairs.

March: Choir trip to Nashville
meant awesome photo ops,


April: We got our Oxbridge medals and
pretended to know what freedom would feel like.

April: Started dating this guy.
Accidental matching ensued.

Also note how swollen my face is.

May: Wittle sister gwaduated.

June: Heather got married!

July: Second best meal of the year
at the infamous Cyclone Corral.

So. Hot. All. Summer.

September: Moved into this cute little Kansas residence.

September: Lil Smoky came to live with us.

October: We ran.

December: Spent hours wrapping presents.

December: My right hand man is now
a 2nd Lieutenant in the United
States Marine Corps.

Closed out 2011 with this view from the back deck.

For the first time, I haven't the slightest clue what the coming year will bring. I do know, though, that the pictures will be way better, because they'll all be taken with this puppy.

Bring it on, 2012.