What I’m Into: April 2014

In April I came home!  I said my goodbyes to my sister, my Mexican family, and many American, Canadian, and Mexican friends.  I managed not to cry until I sat on the plane in Huatulco, bound for Houston.  When I finally arrived in Tulsa at the end of a long travel day, I was so excited to see my parents and my friends Christine, Rebecka, and Brett waiting for me at the airport.   It’s hard to go home when you’re leaving another home–but it’s so great to be at this home.

I had a lot of plans for my first month back in America, but things didn’t turn out exactly like I’d hoped.  Also, it took me forever to write about April.  But here it is, What I Was Into in April, inspired by Leigh Kramer.

Sunset from the flight to Tulsa
Sunset from the flight to Tulsa

Health and Food

After more than six healthy months in Mexico I got sick within 48 hours of coming home.  At first it seemed like just a little virus, but after a series of unfortunate events (including many trips to the doctor, getting better then getting sick again, a blood test, and a CT scan) it turns out that I have some kind of kidney inflammation.  I’m waiting to see a nephrologist (kidney doctor), but the earliest appointment I could get is in the end of July. Until then, I’m drinking a lot of water, sleeping a lot, and eating a low sodium diet.

That sounds easy, doesn’t it, just eat less sodium?  Don’t add extra salt, don’t eat salty foods?  Alas, sodium (and too much of it) is in almost everything. If I want to make a simple sandwich at home, I can easily eat over 1000 mg of sodium in just  the bread, lunch meat, and cheese.  That doesn’t sound terrible, until you learn that it’s recommended that you eat about 1500 mg of sodium a day, 2300 mg should be your upper limit, but most of us eat more than 3400 mg a day.  I’ve been trying to eat between 1000 and 1500 mg a day (or less if I can manage it) to take care of my kidneys while I wait to see the doctor and see what’s going on.   Some foods, like fruits and vegetables, naturally don’t have much sodium.  Many, many other foods also naturally don’t have sodium but have tons and tons of added salt and sodium because that’s how we like to eat our food: salty.  And eating out? Is nearly impossible.  There is no such thing as low sodium fast food or restaurant food

I’ve had many friends who have eaten specific diets, some by choice but most for health reasons, like eating gluten or dairy free.  No matter what your dietary need is, it’s hard to eat differently than everybody else. Eating low sodium is difficult–there’s no special section for low sodium foods, you just have to spend a lot of time at the store reading nutrition labels.  Thanks to the amazing help of my mom, though, I’ve been able to consistently eat low sodium, even when it’s challenging.  Believe me, no salt-added food tastes way different than typical food.

Job

April was not all dreary health and eating problems.  Ten days after I returned fro Mexico, I was offered a part-time job as a Bilingual Circulation Clerk with the Tulsa Library!  I emailed a resume for this job in March, letting the library know I would be home from Mexico in April.  The day before I left for Tulsa, my mom let me know that the library had called my house (thank goodness I put my house number and not my cell number on my resume) wanting to talk to me about the position.  I was able to interview my first week back and the next week I got a call offering me the job and I started the next week.  I still can’t believe I got a job that quickly and that I now work at the library.  It’s been great so far and I’m excited to see where this position will lead me.  It’s been so great to immediately use my Spanish at work.  I worked really hard to learn that language–I don’t want to lose it now!

Books

I had hoped to read a lot in April and get on track with my 100 books in 2014 goal, but being sick ruined that for me.  When I’m sick, my brain refuses to concentrate on reading. So I spent a lot of quality time with HGTV, but that’s for another section.  I did read five books in April, but here are my two favorites:

I won my copy of Girl at the end of the World in a contest from Elizabeth Esther.  She eloquently tells the story of her abusive childhood in a fundamentalist cult, and how she was able to leave and start over:  I highly recommend it.  Boxers is a comic/graphic novel telling a story from the time of the Boxer Rebellion in China.  If you don’t know what that is (and even if you do), I recommend reading Boxer to learn more about that important time in history.

TV

Dear TV, Thank you for being there for me when my kidneys decided to misbehave and my brain decided to take a vacation.  I especially want to credit HGTV, along with its shows House Hunters, House Hunters International, Property Brothers, and Income Property.  I do not thank Love It or List It or Love It or List it Too, because they’re horrible shows. After watching a ridiculous amount of HGTV, I feel qualified to go buy and remodel a house.  As I can barely keep my room clean and I have no money, though, it seems unlikely.

I’d also like to thank Parks & Recreation and Bones for having solid seasons (though Bones might not actually be over yet?) for me to enjoy when I returned from Mexico.  I still have the P&R finale on the DVR and I rewatch my favorite scenes, especially when Leslie Knope meets Michelle Obama.

Leslie Knope Meets Michelle Obama
Leslie Knope Meets Michelle Obama (found here: http://seattletostorybrooke.tumblr.com/post/83777876794)

The End

April didn’t go exactly as planned.  Instead of reading, I watched HGTV.  I started organizing and decluttering my room, but persistent fevers in the beginning of April made me lose my steam and not it just seems too overwhelming. I wanted to jump into new opportunities, maybe visiting a Spanish speaking church or finding a Bible study or just being with people, but I spent a lot of April exhausted and sick instead.  I was very sick. And I’m better, but I’m not fully well either. However.  I did turn 26 on April 16 and celebrated my birthday with some of my favorite people (just see the list of the people who met me at the airport).  I got a job! And a bilingual job at that, at the place where I hoped to work.  Here’s hoping for a healthier May as I figure out how to live my life here in America.

PS Please enjoy the pictures below. I’m sure it would be prettier if I interspersed them throughout the post, but that’s more work than it’s worth.

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Gris (my Mexican “mom”) and me
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Me with my friend Irma
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Emily and Me
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Me and Melody (my Mexican “sister”)
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Moriah, Natasha, Pamela, Genna, Me, and Emily

What I’m Into: March, April, May 2013 Edition

This post started out as What I’m Into: March 2013. Well, it’s June now, so whatever. 2013 continues to be an exercise in learning to put up with “things I do not want.”  Stress, disappointment, frustration, you name it, 2013 has brought it.  March has been notorious in my life for being weird and disappointing and great all at the same time. April wasn’t any improvement. May and early June could be classified as some of the worst weeks of my adult life thus far.

Enough about bitter disappointment, that’s a story for another day.  There have been things I’ve liked these past months that have brought some happiness into some of the blergh and awful that seems to be 2013’s watchword.

TV

I fell in love with Parks and Recreation. Leslie Knope/Amy Poehler? I am her, people. I am her. Ok, not all of her, I like to think I’m a bit more self-aware and I don’t really care about parks. But the episode where she visits her manfriend in Washington DC? And she has detailed plans of everything she wants to see and do in DC? That is exactly me. I share her unbridled passion museums and history and other random things. And Ron Swanson? He is literally the best.

Books

I haven’t finished a book in quite awhile. In March, I read a few comic books, Plain Janes and Friends with Boys. They’re so short, but I really enjoy a graphic novel now every once in a while. The best book I read in March, though, was Brain on Fire. It’s the horrifying true story of a 24-year-old woman’s descent into madness because of a rare autoimmune disease, a diagnosis that took time and $1 million of tests.  As I was still 24 when I read this book, all I could think was: This could have been me. Some true stories never hit close to home because they could never possibly happen to me–but what happened to her is not that impossible. This woman’s story is powerful and fascinating: read it.

Music

I saw Muse in concert. It was absolutely magical. The concert was truly an amazing multimedia experience. I had never been to the BOK Center in Tulsa before, and I was amazed at all they could pull off  in one concert. A mountain of video screens coming down from the ceiling. Live video of Muse performing on those screens that looked so polished that it took quite awhile for me to figure out it was live. It was so good, it ruined me for listening to their music on just a plain old laptop.

Movies

I saw one movie in March. Admission, with Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. And it was AWFUL.  Let’s never speak of this again.

Other

I don’t know how I neglected The Lizzie Bennet Diaries last month, but I did. Let’s be honest, the LBD was one of my favorite media experiences of late 2012 and early 2013. This retelling of Pride and Prejudice in modern-day America was spectacular.  It ended in late March, 100 episodes of hilarity, happiness, tears, and magic. Watch it. Seriously.

Here’s to the rest of June bringing better things.

25

Today, I am 25. 

I got to spend my birthday in my favorite place, the Little Light House.  Some days, I can’t believe how blessed I am to work at such an amazing place, where miracles happen every day, where I am loved, where I am doing a job God made for me.  I mean, kids like Colton bring me birthday signs–how much better does it get? 

Colton brought a Happy Birthday sign for me for the day!
Colton brought a Happy Birthday sign for me for the day!

 

My life is incredibly different than it was a year ago. Last year, I was working in the classroom, doing a job I loved. I was an Associate, the assistant teacher in a classroom with 8 children with special needs and one staff kid. I was exhausted, and I loved it. But God opened the door for me to work in a new department, where I’m in charge of getting the word out about the Little Light House. And now I have even more responsibility: part of my duties now include grantwriting, helping to make sure we have enough money to keep providing services to these amazing students. It’s a little terrifying and overwhelming–but I think this is going to be a great year.

Four months ago, my computer crashed and I lost 2.5 years of my life, in a way. All the pictures of my two years of teaching are gone. I’ve found a few here and there, and I have at least one of every student. I worked on no major creative projects in my life post-college, so I didn’t lose anything creative. But that’s not that great, because that’s just sad. I didn’t write much about my students, my life, because I was exhausted and because I couldn’t figure out how to navigate that line of telling my story and their stories without telling too much. And when I say I couldn’t figure it out, I really mean that the thought just overwhelmed me so I didn’t really try.

So, I don’t know what I’m doing creatively this year, but may God bring back the stories I’ve lost. I always thought I’d have pictures of my students and my time in the classroom to jog my memories, but since they’re gone, I’ll just have to remember. I don’t have any master plan–I’m just going to see what happens and what stories God brings back. Here’s to remembering, and to investing in multiple backups so this never happens to me again. 

Enough about my computer and lost things. This is going to be a good year. I have stories I’m telling, work projects I’m launching, grants I’m writing, and life I’m living. 

And even though I don’t teach any more, I still get to spend time with kids like Calex.  Life is good.

Calex and me on my birthday.
Calex and me on my birthday.

 

Captain

I have been given many mixed messages on being a woman. To be clear from the start, these messages aren’t from my parents. From them I received nothing but affirmation, along with no prescription that I must get married to be important. The mixed messages arrived from some of the people in the Christian subculture where I spent a lot of my time. It’s a strange world I inhabited.

I was often surrounded by people who spoke of feminism like it was a filthy dirty swear word, who believed that women were naturally second best, who gave women important tasks but always with a man in authority. But simultaneously I was always encouraged to be the best that I could be, that I could be anyone I wanted, that I was intelligent and beautiful, that I was a woman of God. I could change the world, follow my dreams, and do great things for the glory of God. Except, when it really came down to it, I really should be married to do those things. I needed a man to guide me. Except, once I was married, I really just needed to have children and then I had to stay at home and homeschool and keep a perfect home. All of those dreams? A career? Any use of a college education beyond teaching my children? I can’t actually have any of those things because I am a woman. And women who love God and follow Jesus has to follow these steps. Or you aren’t living biblically.

Needless to say, these conflicting messages have been confusing. Why do you tell me how much I can achieve, then teach me that I can’t actually do any of it? What do you mean I need a man in order to have a fulfilled life? I’m really just supposed to quit the dreams God has called me to fit into your ideal of who a “Christian woman” is supposed to be? My only dream is supposed to be being a wife and mother? In the words of Liz Lemon: blergh.

I would like to say I’ve wrestled with this dilemma, but let’s be honest. I haven’t wrestled with it. I just realized I was being forced into a false dichotomy, so I chose to throw aside the crazy. Someday, part of my life may include finding a travel buddy [read: a husband] and having children. And I would like to stay home with those children and perhaps homsechool them. BUT I DON’T HAVE TO BASED ON SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEAL FOR MY LIFE JUST BECAUSE I AM A WOMAN.

I can do great things without a man–and with one. I can make great decisions on my own–and with others. I can have dreams–and God can change or keep them. I am the captain of this ship, with God drawing up the maps as I go along.

Even though choosing to throw out some of the crazy imposed upon me wasn’t difficult, the old messages pop up with surprising frequency. When everyone is getting married and having babies, it feels weird to be one of the few that isn’t. Is there something wrong with me? Am I not living the way I should? Why am I not getting asked on dates preparing for marriage (or whatever the conservative Christian kids are calling it these days)?

If I still believed what I was told for so many years, these and other questions would lead me to think that I was out of God’s will. I would think that my life isn’t good enough because I’m not married. Worst of all, I would think that someone else is responsible for my happiness and completeness as a child of God. That sobers me up pretty good, because those are lies.

I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m who I’m supposed to be. I’m working in the job at the ministry where I belong. For this season, since I am not otherwise attached, I can devote myself to my job without reservations. I can take extra responsibilities, learn new tasks, and do things for others that I couldn’t do if I had a man and children at home. I love my life.

I am not lesser in God’s eyes because I am a woman. I am following his dreams for me. I am making a difference. And no amount of other people’s crazy will change that.

I am the captain of this ship, with God drawing up the maps as I go along.

TV

I think I’ve mentioned before that over the last two years, my entertainment and escapist world of choice has been TV shows. I don’t sit in front of the television, ironically.  Instead I indulge with Netflix and DVDs on my laptop.

This development has come about for a number of reasons.  First, I’m tired. And I’m busy. I love my job, but it’s demanding. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I wrote a paragraph that scratches the surface of what I do in a day, but that just got exhausting so I stopped writing and decided I’d elaborate on that another day. Just picture a lot of preschoolers, co-workers, volunteers, cleaning, and running around like a crazy person. That’s my life. And I love it. But when I come home I don’t want to read.  My brain is sleepy and I want to do something that demands less from me.  Reading requires a lot of my brain and my emotions.  Shows pull on my emotions, but in a different and less demanding way than reading.  So, TV it is.

Second, I enjoy TV shows more than movies.  Movies are an hour and a half or two, and then they’re over.  Unless it’s Firefly (tears), TV shows have multiple seasons with many episodes.  More stories? More character development? More of my favorite actors? Yes please. I enjoy being able to immerse myself in a show’s universe, story arcs, and characters over a longer period of time than movies allow. Escapism!

Third, Netflix has better TV shows than movies.

Fourth, when I do read, I’ve become interested in mostly memoirs and non-fiction.  Fiction, except for young adult literature, doesn’t really strike a chord with me anymore.  I loved The Help, but I read that last Spring Break and I haven’t read any good fiction since then.  I know it’s out there, I just can’t/won’t make the investment. I mostly read Christian fiction in high school, and I don’t like that anymore either.  My most recent reading binge of 20 books on my trip to Mexico only included three works of fiction, all Christian. And I hated two of of them, because they were so insipid and useless. But I like to finish things, so there you go. Despite these disappointments, I still love stories of things not real. And since written fiction has been letting me down, TV comes to save the day.  Oh, the stories I have found and loved in television over the last two years!  Like books always have, the stories in shows are making a mark in my life.

Fifth, I love the ridiculous.  Time traveling alien? Yes. A forensic anthropologist and her crack science and FBI team? Check. A political drama set in space? Awesome. A sci-fi western? No doubt. A cute nerd and some spies? Definitely.  I don’t watch shows to experience real life.  Reality need not invade on my entertainment.  I want to see what’s possible on the edge of imagination. I want a window on what life is like without some of the limits put on mine. I want to dream about adventures that are impossible. I love seeing how a super-spy mission, a trip to an imaginary planet or a battle against a terrifying foe can give insight into my own life. Because it does. I will elaborate on that another day, though.

Sixth, I like the funny. My job is ridiculous and hilarious most days. But some days it’s soul-wearying.  I dwell in reality, where life is hard for my students and their families. Again, a story for another day. But while dwelling in reality is the only place I want to be, it can be draining. And sometimes I just want to laugh.  A crazy paper company staff? Of course. A dysfunctional family who is perpetually ridiculous? Hilarious. Crazy friends living the New York life trying to find love and happiness?  Absolutely.  The cast of a made-up comedy show constantly becoming involved in shenanigans? Always. I don’t care if people aren’t that funny in real life. That’s why I’m watching: to appreciate humor in a world that needs some.

Seventh, I just like TV shows.

 

Now that I’ve analyzed my current obsession to some detail, it’s time to play Guess Those Shows (a distant cousin of my family game of Guess Who’s Dead). I’m not especially clever with my descriptions nor do I watch obscure TV shows, but I’m curious if my scant readership knows which shows I described. So, Guess Those Shows?

Well

Things happened in April. And March. Apparently I’ve fallen out of the habit of reviewing my months.  They’re all seeming to run together.

Things are happening and I like my life, but everything is just such a different speed and tone than the last few years of my life that I don’t really know what to do with it yet. How to process it myself, how to write about it for others to understand. My life is now so intertwined with the personal lives of children, co-workers, volunteers….that I can’t and won’t openly share all my stories on the interwebs. The stories are complicated, personal, detailed, crazy, and most of the time: Business, None of Yours.

And I don’t do much else but work, especially this month. I mean, I got older, but I was sick most of the day. Yay preschool stomach bug. And really, who wants to read about that?

Basically, the last two weeks, I have worked, then gone home and watched shows or slept. Or both. I’ve been exhausted, allergied, and trying to stay healthy enough to keep going to work. Ironically, last week during our devotional time at work, we talked about time management and using our time wisely.  Alas, I can’t always be super-productive.

May will be busier. Graduations, changes, crazy.

Also I watch Doctor Who now. Despite the persecution, I love being a nerd. I love time travel, existential questions, and beautiful music. AND Britishness. Can I be Amelia Pond?

Skipping

I skipped a comprehensive review of February and a preview of March for a number of reasons. One, at first I just forgot.

Two, February was really nothing to write home about. Snowpocalypse. I literally didn’t leave the house for most of the first two weeks of February. Seriously. It started snowing on Monday night January 31…and I didn’t go anywhere until Saturday February 5. Even after that the roads were so bad that I still didn’t go many places.  I watched a lot of Netflix. And rearranged my room a thousand times. And pretended to study for the GRE.  Among other things. Really, the first two weeks of February 2011 will not go down as the most productive period of my life.

I didn’t really go back to work until Valentine’s Day. Whereupon we had VALENTINE’S WEEK at work. Yayyy, the single life. But really, it was Valentine’s week, it was like we celebrated every day, parties, candy, etc. This is what happens at preschool.  We celebrate everything. EVERYTHING.  Even Singles Awareness Day.

The latter part of February got more exciting, with Christmas in February, also known as the Book Fair at a local private school.  I can’t even really count how many people were in my house, because my sister’s friends just kept coming and coming.  15 maybe?  And we woke up super early on a Saturday to buy books. And I must say, it was an excellent book shopping year. Highlight? Our Mississippi, a Mississippi state history textbook from the sixties.  Also, lots of pretty travel books.

[background noise for writing this post is one of my favorite episodes of Bones, Two Bodies in the Lab. and my favorite song from the show is about to play. Hurrah for my love of appropriately used electronica. Who knew I liked Depeche Mode? I didn’t.]

The rest of February was tough.  Children can be difficult after long periods of being cooped up.  Hey, I’m difficult after long periods of being copped up thanks to Snowpocalypse.  I just have slightly more self-control.  My job is great, but it’s draining, it’s exhausting, it’s demanding.  Let’s just say my three week spring break/rest was desperately needed, despite the bonus two weeks of Snowpocalypse.

Also, I was just beginning to build a social life before Snowpocalypse snowed all over it, so I felt like I was starting all over socially in late February. Finding friends without having them right next to me is difficult.

Three (I’ve rambled for so long anyone reading may have forgotten I was listing reasons I hadn’t written what I’m writing yet), I was afraid that somehow March of 2011 would turn out like March of 2010. With bitter disappointment.  With expectation turned to nothing. With growth that was really good but really really hard. I just didn’t want to think about that possibility, no matter how remote. Nor did I really want to think about last March. Or this past February for that matter.

Sometimes I need to write in the heat of the moment, so I will remember how I really felt. And sometimes I need to step away and wait so the heat of the moment doesn’t carry me away to extremes that are just exaggerations of my actual feelings. Last year, I needed to remember how I really felt. Now? A little distance is good for me.

This time last year I was in Jackson. Oh how I miss that time. THAT part of March 2010 was fabulous, but I pretended that was April anyway. And that the hateful part of April was just nowhere. Nevertheless, Jackson and the work the Lord did left an impression on my heart, my soul, my mind that will remain forever.  Like a tattoo, but I detest the word tattoo.  Every word I think of to describe it just isn’t right. It’s not a stamp, not a weight, not a burden, not a tattoo, not a calling, but more than just a simple impression.  Inscription. [I really have a thing for precise language]  The Lord left an inscription on my heart for/with/by Jackson. This inscription has so much to say, but that’s for another time.

March 2011, you’re almost over. Sorry I tried to ignore you, you’ve actually been rather super. Keep going strong.