January, 2013

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My first trip to the ER

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

I woke up this morning with a hospital bracelet on my left hand and a patch of gauze taped to my right. Last night, for the very first time in my life, I had reason to visit the emergency room – and judging by the Vicodin now pumping through my veins, it was nothing short of a necessity.

Perhaps you recall the time long ago that I worked out with Gunnar the Viking. Although I never paid for another personal training session, I’ve incorporated some of the moves he taught me into my regular workouts – and last night, while lifting an embarrassingly small amount of weight, I threw out my back.

And just like that, I am one of the Debilitated.

The pain… I wish I could communicate the pain. My lower back is a war zone, a constant buzzing electricity that shoots hot daggers of fire throughout my body whenever I move, making me cry out loud and literally want to vomit. I somehow made it out of the gym and into the driver’s seat of my car, and then, with tears streaming down my face, drove home where Hannah encountered me gasping for air and crying.

She took off my shoes, laid me back on a heating pad, elevated my legs, gave me some Aleve, and we both went to bed. Except I never fell asleep – the pain kept getting worse, I kept crying uncontrollably, and after 4 hours of increasing agony, I did what any logical person would do: I called my mom.

Now, I’m not saying I’m super tough or anything, but I definitely don’t lose it like this. Physical things don’t make me come unglued – emotional things, yes (we all know this), but physical things, never. My mom was freaked to hear me so hysterical, and convinced me to go to the hospital.

And because everyone loves an oversharer:

I got my first-ever oxygen mask (when the nurse said that the nasal prongs looked a little bit long and he would look for his scissors to trim them, I assured him that it would be okay because “I’ve got nostrils for days.” Really? Who says that?), an IV for pain meds, and prescriptions for various narcotics. I’ve been ordered to “take it easy” for several weeks, which is disappointing and scary for someone as active as I am.

Then again, when do we ever have a doctor’s order NOT to work out? If it weren’t for the pain, I’d be almost intrigued by this invitation to a slower pace.

My pain level was a 9-10 last night, but down to a 4-5 with the drugs today. I’m in bed with a heating pad, surrounded by pill bottles and books and projects that I would work on if I weren’t feeling so mentally dulled. Toad is the best little companion, letting me sleep until 10am without begging for her breakfast or needing to go out. And Hannah is the champion of roommates, getting up at 2am to drive me to the hospital, sitting with me until 4, taking me to the pharmacy this morning, and not making fun of me for whimpering.

I figured I’d write all of this down so that someday when I’m about to give birth and afraid of the pain, I can look back on this and say, “Remember that? You’ll be fine.”

Sisters getting married, and other reflections

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

My younger sister Becca got married last weekend, and my even younger sister Sarah is getting married in 3 months, and my brother Jeremy has been married for 12 years, and I am single. Yes, this has led to some emotional moments for me, and yes, I sometimes wonder if I’m at all “marriage material.” Yes, I fear future holidays when all of my siblings are with their spouses and I’m potentially alone. Yes, comments that “It will happen when you least expect it!” and “You just need to give it to God” are largely unhelpful. Yes, I have thought about online dating. Yes, I have tried online dating. Yes, I quit online dating – because yikes.

Yes, I want and hope to be married. But right now, I’m not.

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul, the Bible’s poster child for singleness, refers to singleness as a gift – and I always assumed that by “the gift of singleness” Paul was referring to a special ability, like being double-jointed or good at art. Like, congratulations! You have the gift of singleness: the cosmic capacity to be alone forever. Enjoy your life of loneliness and despair, because whether you like it or not, it’s what you were designed for.

I sure don’t feel like I was designed to be alone forever. Does anyone?

So it got my wheels turning. What if the “gift” that Paul talks about is not a special talent or competence, but an actual GIFT: a present. An offering. A package wrapped up by the gift giver and presented with a huge smile on his face, because he knew that it was good and that the recipient could love it.

Because I do love it. I love being single. This weekend I did so many things that bring me life: I made delicious soup and drank wine and went on a 9-mile walk and a 5-mile run, and I got a massage, and I went to a movie all by myself (which always feels so indulgent), and I took Toad to the park and cleaned the kitchen and did my laundry and stocked up on groceries and for nearly 48 hours, I barely said a word to anyone because that is what FILLS MY SOUL.

Singleness is not a consolation prize for those who aren’t good enough to be married, just like marriage is not a reward for being amazing, attractive, and accomplished.  Both are gifts in their own right. And the only way I’m giving up this good gift of singleness is if someday I’m presented with an opportunity to trade up for something even better.

Until then, I will revel in the luxury of spending however much money I see fit on pretty dresses for my siblings’ weddings, and welcoming new brothers-in-law to the family, and knowing that at the end of the day, it’s pretty good to be me – just me.

The Murphys

Monday, January 21st, 2013

On Saturday, my sister Becca married Michael Murphy.

I know. Her dress is insanity. This picture is insanity. Jeremy and Ashley are insanity, and will be posting many more pictures in the future, I’m sure.

I am still reeling from bronchitis-while-bridesmaiding, 3 days out of the office, and all of the wedding festivities. I’ll see you back here when my brain and body have recovered.

Finally Friday

Friday, January 11th, 2013

I don’t know about you, but for me, this week has been insane. Last Friday, we finished moving my sister Becca out of the house (she’s getting married a week from tomorrow – how is this happening?). On Saturday, we got a new roommate (Melissa – she is wonderful and blond and adorable). January 7 was the first Monday back to work after the holidays – which felt a lot worse than Wednesday, January 2, just by merit of the fact that it was a Monday. Work is in full swing, my to-do list a mile long, significant pieces of my brain tucked into various pockets of projects. I am trying to figure out how to keep Toad alive without living with Becca (it’s a lot easier to share the load of two dogs than take care of just one by myself). My sister Sarah set a wedding date (have I not mentioned this? I haven’t! My youngest sister Sarah got engaged over Christmas – and by April, she will be a lawfully wedded wife. Yes, both of my younger sisters are getting married within 3 months of each other. Yes, this sends me for an emotional loop. No, I’m not falling apart at the seams. More on this later, I’m sure). My Subaru needs a $2,000 repair. I’m training for a half marathon. And I’m hosting Becca’s bachelorette party tomorrow night.

All of that to say, I’m tired. I’m glad it’s Friday. And I’m really glad that Joey explored Pinterest as a man.

“Written Together” by Shanna Mallon

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

As is the case with so many people in Nashville, we had been sort of peripherally acquainted for a while. We had a lot of mutual friends, had been in the same room a few times, lurked around each other’s internet spaces – but I wouldn’t say that I really knew Tim Mallon.

So you can imagine my surprise back in 2010 when I had just finished running the Country Music Half-Marathon and looked up to see Tim – internet-acquainted but real-life-unfamiliar – making a beeline for me. Sweaty and disgusting is not the state in which you want to have your first real in-person interaction with anyone, man or woman, but Tim was unfazed: he gave me a hug and, after talking for a few minutes, we concluded that we should continue the conversation.

So a week later, I met Tim and his brother Nathan for coffee at Frothy Monkey. It was pouring rain that Saturday. The rain would continue for two days, and by Monday, Nashville would be under water – but we didn’t know that yet. We were just enjoying casual conversation, learning about each other’s families and each other’s work and why they had started drinking unpasteurized milk. Tim and Nathan are disarmingly genuine. I wish everyone could meet them.

Somewhere in the conversation, Tim mentioned Shanna. “We’re talking,” he said. And just as I always do when I hear about a crush, I got excited. “You’re talking?” I asked. “You’re talking to Shanna? Shannalee the blogger Shanna?”

He grinned. “Yeah! Shanna and I are talking.”

At the time, I was a new reader of Food Loves Writing – I don’t remember how I came across it, but once I found it, I was hooked. So much more than a foodie blog, Shanna weaves stories from her life into her experiences in the kitchen – her perspective is compelling, her heart absolutely beautiful. And the food that she makes – oh my word. The recipes send me into guilt spirals for standing in front of the fridge picking store-bought rotisserie chicken straight off the carcass and calling it “dinner.” Everything about her site is lovely and worthwhile. She’s one of my favorite voices on the internet.

And I couldn’t believe the coincidence: Tim Mallon, the Tim Mallon sitting right across from me, was talking to Shanna!

I’m going to spoil the ending: they kept talking. Shanna moved from Chicago to Nashville, and they got married. I met her in real life, too – a picnic lunch at Sevier Park, where we talked about struggles and faith and where this life might be leading each of us. She is every bit as wonderful in person as she is online.

And now, she has written a book – a book about that period in her life when she and Tim were talking, getting to know each other, falling in love. Written Together is a quick but gorgeous read, a story interspersed with recipes and details and hope. Last week, I put on my pajamas and crawled into bed, started reading and didn’t stop until I finished it. I loved it.

And I just wanted to tell you.

– – – – –

Written Together is available in both ebook and printed format. Shanna didn’t ask me to write about it – but if you want to support a couple who lives and loves in a way that is inspiring, I encourage you to get a copy or three.

Re-solutions

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Last Tuesday morning, I poured myself a cup of coffee and crawled back into bed. To be fair, this is what I do every single morning (don’t judge my self-indulgences, except when they include reality TV). But Tuesday was no ordinary day – Tuesday was New Year’s Day, which means I needed to make my New Year’s resolutions.

My resolutions. My re-solutions. My attempts to re-solve myself – because every single year, I think that I can. And every single year, I’m disappointed to figure out that I can’t: I cannot solve myself, no matter how many times I try. No amount of accomplishment, weight loss, or personal virtue can fix me, or any one of us.

Often, I wish that I could solve myself, because wouldn’t it be great to be in the driver’s seat of my own life. Wouldn’t it be great to call all the shots and know that if I tried hard enough, prayed hard enough, was good enough – poof – I’d be fixed. I’d be better. I’d be awesome. Best of all, I’d be in control.

I’m not big on poetry, but I remember William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” from AP College English during my senior year of high school. An ode to self-reliance and resilience, the last two lines go:

I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

I don’t know about you, but after all of my years of control-freaking, all of a sudden, that thought exhausts me. I do not want to be the master of my fate or the captain of my soul.

So this year, my “resolutions” are being reframed.

Don’t get me wrong – I have some hopes and plans for the year (climb 7 14ers, write 4 songs, run 1 half-marathon, have 0 nervous breakdowns). But if these goals come from a place of “because this will solve me,” then I’m going to wind up sorely disappointed – again.

So no more re-solutions. No more mastering my fate, or captaining my soul. Just some hopes, and daily little steps, and trusting that I’m exactly where I need to be in this moment, even if nothing is is “solved.”