Friday, October 30, 2009

Guest Blogger: Third Grade Memories

Today I am feautured elsewhere, click here to enjoy. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Zinc

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Curtis and I at Niagra falls, back when we were dating.

Yesterday evening after dinner I mentioned to my husband, who is six months from being an official doctor, that the back of my throat was “ever so slightly irritated.”

“We need zinc. Let’s go to the store,” was his prompt reply.

“Right now?” I didn’t want to go now, I was settled in for the evening. It was dark outside. And raining. Perfect combination for staying inside.

“That’s the only time it works. If you take it after the illness has developed it’s useless.” And everyone thinks marrying a doctor is a great idea.

It’s a good thing that the wardrobe at 8pm in the grocery store is sweatpants, because that’s what I was wearing. And because I was wearing sweatpants, I was destined to run into all sorts of people I knew. As we picked out bananas that were already too ripe, I saw a past student.

Do I talk to this individual? Or act like I didn’t see her? After all, to compliment my sweatpants I had a hooded sweatshirt, half dried hair (it’s raining anyway, right?) and a splotchy face. Later as we passed the juice aisle, I saw her and her dad again, and ventured acknowledge the meeting. We chatted briefly and politely, surrounded by plastic containers of all-natural sugar water, and then went on our ways to finish shopping. Not too unnatural or embarrassing.

As I turned around I ran into (almost literarily) a professor from college. He asked my husband and I if we were dating (haven’t been asked that for years…since we were dating), and as I noticed his own attire (exercise pants, t-shirt, mismatched coat) I didn’t feel so shabby, even if we were talking about his recently published book about Shakespeare. Who knew resurrection images in Julius Caesar could be such casual conversation?

In the end, the longest delay of the trip wasn’t casual conversation about Elizabethan drama surrounded by wheat bread but trying to figure out the right kind of zinc to purchase. Shall we choose the 50 tablets of 100mg, which are candy coated? Or 100 tablets of 50mg? Or are the 60 lemon zinc lozenges (30mg) going to be absorbed more effectively into my system? This is when you’d think having a doctor along would help.

He didn’t know either. Determining factor for him? “Which one is the cheapest?”

There seemed to be some sort of philosophical health care statement being made in that moment, as we walked away with the all-natural lemon-zinc lozenges that were on sale for $2.45…

…But all I really cared about at that moment was getting home, out of the grocery story and the rain, and back home, where I could nurse my aggravated throat with lemon flavored zinc, and debate the merits of the flu vaccines (another perk of being married to a doctor).
But that’s another debate altogether.

Monday, October 26, 2009

And yet another use for...

My Latest Discovery:
Why pack gifts with paper...or bubbles...or foam peanuts...or air pockets, when you could pack with...

Candy

...candy.

Thanks to the in-laws for this great invention.

Who knew?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Endearing Annoyances: Our First Home

House
I am cold.

The weather has changed, the sleet and rain have moved in and snow is only a matter of time. The leaves are brightening in color, though fewer and fewer are intact on the branches each evening as I look out the window.

Our landlord is trying a new method for heating our apartment: space heater. Not heaterS …just heater. This heater is guaranteed by Bob Villa himself—1000 square feet can be heated by the Eden Pure Gen3 Quartz 1000. Yet, my apartment is 59 degrees.

When we moved into our apartment after getting married, we began a relationship…with the second story of a crimson brick house built in the 1920’s. Some of the windows loudly slide into place, balanced on cords with weights. Others have cords that have long since rotted or broken with time, and must be propped up with rods that we store on the windowsill.

Mice get in through the dryer venting, from the washer/dryer unit that is poised three feet from our front door. It shares plumbing with the bathtub, and every time a load drains it backs up into the tub, leaving lint and hair from cloudy water in a ring around the edges.

The oven is just barely wide enough to fit a 9x13 inch dish, or a cookie sheet. It cooks unevenly enough to merit turning things two or three times to make sure that the front is cooked completely and the back is not burned. It is exposed on one side, adding several degrees to the temperature of the kitchen when it is on (a significant plus with the current temperature).

Each room houses old radiators that have been painted white. The steam heat they emit warms the rooms of our home, always accompanied by a symphony of hissing, and warmth that slowly moves across the length of the metal frames. I have sat on the metal as it warmed in the evenings, sliding from one side to the other as the heat became too great, eventually getting off altogether.

Unfortunately, old steam heating radiators are expensive to operate, thus the arrival of Bob Villa’s comrade: the Eden Pure.

Someday I imagine us living in a home with airtight windows, a full size oven, and an entrance void of a washer and dryer …or maybe just with central heating. But even as we approach that, I know I will miss the jeweled handles of closet doors that don't fully close, the built in cabinets and drawers that get stuck, and the abundance of character that comes with our one-of-a-kind apartment, that will always be “the first place we lived.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In which I use "exceptionally" too many times

Everyone I know is pregnant. Maybe not everyone, but a significant percentage of my female friends between the ages of 23 and 30 are carrying a live fetus in their bodies that is due to arrive in April or May. They are all exceptionally tired, and hungry, and nauseous. They don’t like brushing their teeth, staying up late, or spending money. Typically this would suit me just fine, as someone that enjoys a solid nine hours of sleep a night, and a budget that is exceptionally tight due to the massive amount of loans accumulated in the education of my spouse. Brushing my teeth? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the feeling of smooth, white enamel.

But I agree on the other two.

Despite these similarities, I am still in an exceptionally different boat than these (former) peers. I don’t peruse the internet for information about the development of my (non existent) child from week to week. I haven’t registered at the mecca of all expectant mothers. I can’t say I own a copy of their guide to their (constantly changing) universe…and why would I? I don’t live there.

Nevertheless I would be lying if I said I don’t allow myself to look into their morphing existence from afar, secretly wondering if I’d like to join them. Dare I admit I would like a growing fetus of my own? Might I care for a dose of constant nausea, clothes that are built for a large growth, and more than my fair share of exhaustion?

And this is when I realize that for every stage of life I’ve inhabited, I have also looked forward with longing to the next. In elementary school, it was the halls of middle school. In middle school, it was the freedom of high school. In high school, it was the independence of college. And then a job, and then marriage, and now it is children.

I have a good enough memory to recognize that for every step forward, something is lost with the last. Approaching adulthood brought much responsibility in addition to freedom. Marriage has brought beautiful companionship, but a little less independence. So much about life is being content and appreciative of the present…knowing that every step forward may not be reversed.

Someday I ardently hope to experience this change of existence, but for now I will enjoy minty, fresh breath, and handing crying babies back to their owners when I have had enough.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gray Hair

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I pulled out a white hair this morning. It wasn’t my first…just my second. The first one I taped to a piece of purple card stock with two pieces of scotch tape. I felt like it was some sort of mile mark, some defining moment that I would look back on in latter days when the colorless hair is endless and my joints ache with movement.

It’s funny to have these moments of aging at 25. My body recovers more slowly for strenuous activity. I pull muscles more easily, and my joints ache with cold weather. I know I’m a long cry from what I’ll experience in older age, but I notice a difference all the same. So much is unpredictable in life, and yet I can count on aging. My body will deteriorate, my skin will stretch and sag, my organs will cease to function, and to dust I will return.

I went to a cemetery this weekend, to visit the dust of those I love, those I have loved. I have been there once before, on a rainy December morning, though on this day it was fresh and cool and comfortable in the fall sunshine.

Circulating the gravestones reflected such a mix of experiences. Some died as infants, with fresh skin and new bodies and lives that seem so full of potential. Others were surely ready, with bodies that gave in at a natural moment, surrounded by loving arms and voices that recalled years of living. And in between are a myriad of stories finished—though seemingly at premature moments. Though their bodies are buried, there were surely things left undone, milestones unseen, moments never experienced.

And I mourn for those. Seven years after burying the shell, the mourning for those is fresh.

I mourn for the moments that will never be witnessed. I grieve the loss of told stories, of shared experiences, of a warm body full of memory and love. Yet, I know some day I will rest there as well, empty of warmth, and the physical shell of a deceased being. Even though the circumstances of death are often tragic, dying is not. Aging is not. These are natural, and will happen to all of us as we near the end of our lives.

Much like gray hair.

Some see cemeteries as ominous and dark and sad. I find them to be peaceful. Because at cemeteries, much like at death, things are at peace. Life is at peace. The turmoil has ended; the battles are over; the fighting can stop. And finally, there is rest.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flowers for Algernon

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The eighth grade reading class is one of my personal favorites. There’s something about being at the top of middle school that brings a little too much confidence, a few too many hearts hand drawn in the margin, and a mouth quick to hand out advice—about anyone or anything.

Last week we read “Flowers for Algernon,” a thought provoking story about a man named Charlie, who takes part in a surgical procedure that increases his intelligence. His progress is detailed in his personal journal, and measured against a mouse, Algernon, who consistently betters his attempts at a maze. As the plot progresses Charlie supersedes Algernon, only to watch him deteriorate before his eyes, predicting Charlie’s own inevitable demise. In the end Charlie runs away…he can’t stand to be around people that knew him at his peak, knowing that they would watch him fall further, when he would no longer be able to protect himself against their demeaning or pitying remarks.

So was it worth it? Should he have had the procedure? The students overwhelmingly said no: it was better for him to not know what he was missing. Better to not make sense of the criticism behind his back, better to not appreciate symphonic music, understand multiple languages, or experience a relationship. Better to just stay away from risk, or pain.

Surely it’s better to live in oblivion.

We had our own Algernon wander around our apartment last week. And then we had another. We caught them in a couple traps, but only after determining that the tiny piles of dirt around the house were actually mouse excrement. There was a pile in the bathroom, a pile under the kitchen table, and a pile…on my bed.

Curtis went out to the store at 10:30pm, and returned a hero with the necessary weapons to fight off our apparent invasion. The traps were set, but after a nearly sleepless night no rodent had ventured under the poised, tense metal.

The following evening we returned to find, with eyes bulging, a dead mouse in the trap. I never actually set eyes on the deceased intruder; Curtis cleaned it up, and set the new trap without ever needing my (unwilling) assistance.

Minutes later, tucked away in bed, we were jarred awake by the loud SNAP of the trap as it caught yet another assailant. Adrenaline rushing, I once again supported (from under the covers of my defiled bed) Curtis as he tossed the still-moving mouse and set up yet another trap.

Every evening when I return from work, I check this third trap with much anticipation, and find great joy to find it empty.

Yet sometimes I wonder if it was better not to know…not to scour the apartment for small pellets, not to race to turn the lights on to reveal a rodent.

I prefer traps.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Evidence.

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There have been so many evenings in the last couple years where I have wondered if I am still single. Not legally single, single on my taxes, or single on a piece of paper...just alone, at home, again.

There was one year, nearly to the day, that I lived by myself. I grew up in a home with three siblings and one mom that were all very close...both emotionally and physically. When we watched a movie, the five of us would squeeze together on two cushions of couch, nearly on top of one another as we scratched each other's backs and ran our fingers through long thick hair. Half of us recited lines and named actors and actresses, half of us sat quietly wishing the others would keep quiet. We would rather be all together than by ourselves.

I lived in a residence hall for four years after I left my home, and the girls that populated the floor and littered the cafeteria and screamed in the halls at midnight...they kept me company. I was never alone.

When I graduated I was ready to have my own space...I was desperate to have my own space. The space I existed within never felt like my own, and for crying out loud I wanted a kitchen. The creative options in the cafeteria (granola mixed with waffle batter, soup doubled as dip for vegetables, grilled chicken made into sandwich meat) had long lost their luster. I wanted leftover chili in the fridge. I wanted freshly cooked oatmeal in the morning. I wanted a real egg. I wanted to eat after 6:59pm if it meant I didn't have to rush out of a hot shower after a cold run outside. More than anything, I didn't want to walk outside in all types of weather to get there.

My apartment was quiet, and furnished, and clean, and mine. I relished quiet mornings with the sun streaming through the sliding glass door. I would make two slices of french toast to eat while I read selections from Devotional Classics. It was fitting to read selections written by monks and martyrs that had spent much time alone, writing about the joy they had found in silence, in rest, in breaks from the chaos of the world. I was finding this to be true...but I also found loneliness.

The paradox is that in having your own space, you are alone.

A year later, many people warned me of the difficult transitions that marriage would bring: living together, eating together, sleeping together...all of this would require much adaptation and work. We would get tired of being around each other soon enough; we would learn to love the normalcy that came with marriage more than the excitement of dating.

But when he is working 80 hours a week and studying in his free time, it's hard to adapt to being around one another. When he gets most Sundays, some Saturdays and a handful of holidays off, and spends 95% of them studying, you don't do a lot of "living" together. We share twenty minutes over dinner, and a few more as we lie in bed falling asleep.

But he is here.

I find his stethoscope in the back seat of my car, his socks in the laundry basket, his empty water glass on the kitchen table. I find his hair in the sink after shaving, two plates in the dish rack after a meal, a stack of books on the dining room table, a stack of books on the desk, and a stack of books on the coffee table. And even though I grumble as I carry the books into one large stack by his closet, and laugh as I wonder how long he's been missing his stethoscope, and trip on his shoes as I carry his dishes to the sink, I am content. Alone, but content.

Our lives have become woven together, sometimes silently, sometimes despite very little time together, but knotted together nonetheless, in a beautiful tangled dance that will continue long after the current stresses are over. He may not be here very often, but the evidence of his existence, our existence, is here. And for that I am happy.