October, 2016

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All the shingle ladies

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

I’m sure you’ve been on the edge of your seat, just dying to know WHAT ON EARTH has transpired since my last blog. Here’s the answer:

1) I had to replace my entire HVAC system.
2) My abdominal pain turned out to be shingles. Because I am 72-years old.

The first thing makes me want a drink. The second thing means I can’t have one. A big old SIGH to all of it.

But despite it all, I recently told a friend, “I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.” And in that moment – not spectacular or special or particularly noteworthy in any way, just a regular moment – I really meant it. This fall has been so good to me. I’m well-rested, working only part-time (and loving it), taking the dog on so many walks, and peppering my schedule with life-giving people and events. It’s quiet a lot of the time, but it’s okay. My life is lacking nothing (except skinnier thighs, but what a stupid thing to let ruin my contentment).

On my birthday back in August, I realized that I only get a good year every three years (22, 25, 28, 31). This year, 34, I’m due. I’m happy to report that the pattern continues.

I don’t know what happens next or how long this particular day-to-day will look like it does right now, because I don’t know that my current circumstances feel all that permanent. But I’m grateful, and I want to remember it, shingles and all (except not the shingles).

Old enough

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

I only slept for five hours. When I woke, it was to a frigid house and a dull ache in my lower right abdomen.

Foxy was on the bed with me, curled up like a coyote, snout tucked beneath her tail. While she’s welcome on the bed, she usually doesn’t choose to be there. She’s independent and she needs her space. We’re a lot alike.

This morning, I was glad to find her on the bed. I wasn’t alone. I was freezing and weirdly in pain, but I wasn’t alone.

I picked up my phone and typed it in — abdominal pain lower right side — and it spit out the answer, the authoritative answer: Appendicitis. Go to the hospital immediately, it said. It will burst within 24 hours, it said. Once it bursts, it’s too late. You are dead, it said.

Appendectomy cost, I typed. I found a story about a Reddit post in which the bill for a 20-year old guy totaled $55,000. “I guess I’ll never afford that wallpaper,” I thought. Mentally subtracting my very high insurance deductible from my bank account, I decided that before driving myself to the hospital, I should try drinking some Metamucil, which I stock in my cupboard because at some point, I became old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard.

I got out of bed and put on a down jacket and wool socks. Why was the house so cold? I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Two rounded teaspoons of orange powder in a tall glass of water, then down the hatch. Within 30 minutes, I felt fine.

Appendectomy averted.

But the furnace. The furnace wasn’t working. The thermostat read 50 degrees. I texted Dane next door and asked him if he knew anything about furnaces, and he said he didn’t, but came over to look anyway. We took the panels off the machine and looked inside with flashlights — for what, we didn’t know.

I found a big cricket dead beside the furnace, and then realized it wasn’t a big cricket but a tiny mouse. Not an insect. An actual mammal with bones. How long had it been there? Did whatever killed the mouse kill the furnace, too? I grabbed it in a dryer sheet and threw it in the dumpster.

I called an HVAC repairman, and he showed up in the afternoon. I left him in the basement. Later, he called me downstairs. “What I’m about to tell you will make you want to tell me to get the hell out of your house,” he said.

The furnace is shot. I need a new one. They recommend also replacing the AC unit at the same time, especially since my AC unit is already over 20 years old, on its last legs. I thought about telling him to get the hell out of my house. When he gave me the estimate, I stared at him, and then said, “I want to curl up in a ball on this basement floor.” He laughed. I didn’t. It’s more money than I’ve ever spent on anything, even a car, save this house itself.

But my house is so cold.

I almost did it. I almost signed on the dotted line, which would have guaranteed me a brand new HVAC system by Tuesday. But at the last minute, as the salesman was walking around my house counting and measuring the windows in order to file the permits, my defeated, slumped shoulders straightened up.

If I’m old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard, then God knows I’m old enough to have learned to seek a second opinion, and probably a third. I’m also old enough to know that money is just money, so even if it’s worst case scenario, well, oh well. I’m old enough not to panic at a financial gut punch. I’m old enough to look a man in the face and let him know that I will not be pressured into anything.

And if I’m that old, then I’m definitely old enough to sit at my dining room table at 8pm on a Saturday night just typing out the events of the day.

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My favorite words, via Emily McDowell

Catching up with Little AP

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Raise your hand if you’ve been reading this blog since 2008.

[Hi Mom. Greta, of course. Hey there Valerie Morby!]

If you’ve been here for a while, you might remember the time that a 13-year old girl from Virginia googled her own name — which happened to be Annie Parsons — and landed on this site. A blog post later, she was cemented in Hootenannie lore as “Little Annie Parsons” — my very own Muppet Baby!

Well, you know what they say about time.
– It heals all wounds.
– It changes things.
– It’s money.
– It marches on*.

*The only applicable phrase, in this case.

Little AP is now TWENTY ONE years old. After our one and only meeting at a P.F. Chang’s in Nashville in 2009, we kept in spotty touch over the years — but I recently thought, “This is dumb. I want to catch up with that little sparklebug.”

APs at P.F. Chang's in 2009

APs at P.F. Chang’s in 2009

So here she is — back for your reading delight. And I mean it: this girl is absolutely delightful. You’ll see.

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Little AP! Oh my goodness, I’m so glad to connect with you. First of all, happy 21st birthday a few days ago! WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE. The last (and only) time I saw you, you were what, 13? Sunrise, sunset.
I am so glad to connect with you, too! And thank you for the birthday wishes. It’s so weird to think that it’s been 8 years since Google brought us together, but it’s definitely been an amazing 8 years.

So, first things first. I must know: have you ever learned to use chopsticks?
Yes! If I remember correctly, you gave me a crash course in chopsticks when we met at P.F. Chang’s. That’s the first time I really got the hang of it.

Proud of you. Now that that’s out of the way, we can actually dive in. A lot has happened in your world since we last spoke. You’ve obviously graduated from high school (I hope). Did you homeschool all the way through? What are you doing now?
Yes, I homeschooled all the way through high school! After I graduated, I got to start working for the theatre education program where I had been a student in high school. The program has been evolving and growing so much over the past few years, and now I get to teach theatre to kids and direct plays and musicals with youth actors. It such a fun, rewarding job. I’m also slowly wrapping up an education degree which I’ve had simmering on the back burner for a while. Other than that, I get to dabble in a lot of awesome stuff like costuming, comedy improv, music, and enjoying life with my family.

The current Little AP - what a beauty!

The current Little AP – what a beauty!

What are you really excited about these days?
I’m getting pretty excited about the numerous chances to get festive over the next few months. Birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas… I walked into a store the other day where they had both their Halloween and Christmas stuff out at once, and I flipped my lid. I know that we can throw around words like “commercialism” here, but I don’t care. It’s October and I’m excited for Christmas.

You’ve always been a big reader and lover of stories and the arts. Right now, today, tell us your favorite
– book: Right now I’m reading the massive Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce is also an all-time favorite.
– movie: Austenland, because it is ridiculous and delightful and it always puts me in a good mood.
– TV show: Ah! Too many. Let’s say Poldark.
– song:I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King (a staple of my solo karaoke parties when I’m driving).
– musical: The tragically short-lived Tuck Everlasting.
– podcast: I don’t get to listen to it often, but I love Good Job, Brain, which is a super funny/smart pub trivia podcast.

I want people to know that you’re an amazing artist. Where can they see your work? And will you draw Foxy?
Thank you so much! Art is something that I’ve loved for a long time, and I recently decided to share my work more courageously. My art blog is the creatively-named anniedrawsthings.wordpress.com, and I recently joined Instagram, where I’m also @anniedrawsthings. The pieces that I post are a mix of character designs, illustrations, drawings based on books and TV, on-location landscapes, and anything else that happens. And I will totally draw Foxy!

foxy3

I fainted. I am dead. Are you kidding me?? You captured her perfectly! I AM FRAMING THIS. Thank you! Hyperventilating, actually. This is my favorite thing that has ever been made! (Sorry, Hamilton.)

[pulls self together]

Wow. Okay. What do you love about living in Abingdon?
Everything. Seriously. It is such a vibrant, gorgeous place to call home, and I am in love with it. If I had to pick one thing, I’d say that I love being a part of such a tight-knit small town community while still having access to so much amazing local theatre, art, music, food, etc. There are a lot of unbelievably talented and kind people around.

What is something that you know you’re good at? What is something you would like to be better at? (Sorry for the dangling prepositions – I just can’t stand the thought of saying, “What is something at which you would like to be better?” Gag me.)
Ooh, this is a good/tough one. I have a pretty good memory, but I’d like to be better at using it for things other than trivia and song lyrics.

Who is someone you really admire?
I’ve always admired my sister Katie for being a generally wonderful person, but recently she’s started taking a botany class and pursuing her love of plants. Her hikes and field journals are so cool, and she has all of these awesome stories about the history behind local plants. If we’re talking famous people, I’d have to go with Julie Andrews, for obvious reasons.

I like that Katie and Julie Andrews belong on the same level. High praise for Fräulein Maria!

Do you have a bucket list? Name something that’s on it.
Travel is a huge item on my bucket list. I actually have a sub-bucket list of places I want to visit. Rome is on the top of that list, closely followed by pretty much everywhere in England.

What are you learning these days? Something deep and spiritual, or something surface level — it matters not to me.
On a deeper/spiritual level, I have been learning a lot about peace and surrender in this past year or so. I’m a worry-er and a people-pleaser by nature, which has led to over-commitment, stress, and a lot of tears. Recently God has put me in a million everyday situations where He has taught me to say no when I need to and trust that I am still loved, valued, and on the right track (and you’ll have to excuse my passive voice there). So much freedom has come from that.

On a surface level, I’m directing a show right now that has a lot of fight choreography in it, so I’ve been learning how pretend to stab people and fall down without getting hurt (much, I’m a wimp).

STAGE STABBING! That is so cool.

And finally, in the spirit of fall, are you a fan of the Pumpkin Spice Latte? I am not. But that doesn’t mean that all APs have to be anti-PSL.
I’m going to say something kind of shocking here: I have not had a Pumpkin Spice Latte yet. I just started drinking coffee regularly this year (my folks got a Keurig for Christmas and it became way too easy to get hooked), so this is my debut Pumpkin Spice Latte season. I’ll have to give it a try and get back to you.

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Can you handle it? She’s grown up, and awesome, and there’s no one I’d rather share a name with.

If you’re looking for a more mature Annie Parsons, obviously go to her. I’m still upset about Zayn leaving One Direction.

We get to be free

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

This weekend, I made a searching and fearless moral inventory. Of my closet.

Over the years, my stockpile of clothing had become unwieldy and entirely unreasonable. As someone who has moved more often than many, one would think that I might have done a better job at paring down the collection every now and then – but alas. Twenty-one year old me held onto that item for a reason (the potential Roaring Twenties party when I might need to be a flapper? The Halloween when I am finally Cruella de Vil?), and far be it from 34-year old me to renounce my former self’s sartorial convictions.

That is, until now. Bye bye, bebe.

I suppose it’s just the latest in what’s becoming a snowball; I’ve spent the past few months “cleaning house” in all sorts of ways. I left a job, for one. I cut my hair. I gave up a month’s pay to skip town and clear my head, and returned to less financial margin but a more peaceful heart. My new gig allows me weeks that are pretty flexible and days that are pretty quiet. I have no alcohol in the house. I took all of the turpentine and paint thinner and old gasoline from the basement to the hazardous waste facility (although come to think of it, this was probably just a smart idea).

And now? Now I’ve cut my wardrobe in half. My friend Brent recently pantomimed me ripping off constrictions like the Incredible Hulk, which is a pretty accurate depiction of what’s going on inside.

One of my favorite quotes is from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” But last week, I heard it taken a step further; in the latest episode of her podcast Magic Lessons, Elizabeth Gilbert quoted Rob Bell’s wife Kristen as having said, “I am so tired of being good. Now all I want is to be free.”

Oof. Does that ring as true for you as it does for me?

It occurs to me that all of my “housecleaning” – from the clothes to the hair to the job to the time – is an effort toward freedom. If my biggest fear is to be trapped (and it is – I never would have survived that Chilean mine disaster), then my ultimate desire is to be unconfined, unfettered, at liberty and on the loose.

And I truly believe that liberation is the point of it all – this entire life, this entire world. We are created for freedom – freedom from shame, freedom from despair, freedom from loneliness and isolation. (I’ve actually started calling isolation “vice-olation” because it’s when I’m separated from community that I turn to bad habits and unhealthy thought patterns.) Why do we stay behind bars, believing that the deadbolt is locked and we’re trapped when, if we would just look, we would see that the door is flung wide open?

We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t even have to be good. But we get to be free.

This is my favorite news.

Stop carting around that old junk move after move, from city to city. Because whether it’s shame or a shirt from Express, both are too ugly for you.