On grief

I spent 18 years looking at my mother’s hands. They were elegant, unique, and busy. Her nails, perfect ovals that extended a few centimeters from the edge of her fingertips, were always manicured and always up to something: gripping the stem of a wineglass, holding the end of a pen, picking at the rare blemish on her chin. She was an effortlessly beautiful woman with a distinctive, shoulder-shaking laugh and an even more distinctive personality: caring but indignant, reckless yet judicious.

You could read her like a book, at least most of the time. When she was happy, her face would visibly illuminate, almost as if she conducted her own electricity. Her white-toothed smile would open up, filling the room with something that made you feel indisputably tipsy if you were near her – a contagious kind of happiness that was nearly tangible. When she was angry, she pursed her lips together into a tight, unyielding circle and a thick cloud would unfurl over the room. She didn’t like to express her sadness outwardly when she felt it, though – it was an emotion she usually reserved for moments of perceived solitude. In the rare event that you caught her crying, she’d be embarrassed, almost as if she felt guilty for including you in her pain. Every once in awhile, her sadness would creep out after a few glasses of wine, but she’d quickly shut it back inside as soon as she realized it had escaped. Most of the time, though, she was happy. To me, she was larger than life.

I remember all of these expressions well, but when I think of my mother, I think of her hands. They moved in tandem with her mouth when she spoke, frequently reaching above her head to comb through her hair as she leaned back in a chair or click delicately against the tablecloth when she shifted her body forward. She was the best cook I knew – always chopping or mixing something, dish towel draped over her right shoulder. During nights when I couldn’t sleep (nights that made up the bulk of my childhood, truth be told), she’d lay down next to me and run her nails up and down my arm, the rhythmic motion so comforting that it put me to sleep in mere minutes. She told me it was a trick she had learned from her father; he died when she was only 8. I couldn’t see her hands when she scratched my arm, but sometimes when I can’t sleep now, I imagine she’s laying next to me, that same comforting rhythm relaxing me until I can close my eyes. I’d bet she pretended her father was doing the same thing for her long after he had passed, too.

The best and worst thing about my mother’s hands is that I have them as well. Not a vague resemblance that alludes to shared DNA, but a literal replica. We wear the same impossibly small ring size: 4 ½. We have the same oddly long nail beds, the same lengthy fingers, an extra hitch in the spot where our thumbs meet our palms. We wrote with different hands, but they possess many similar talents. I can cook, for one. My handwriting is neat, and I frequently find myself using my long nails to reach out and scratch someone’s back, run a hand along the side of their face. My mom’s hands, like her, were beautiful, and I consider mine to be the most physically attractive part of me. I used to think that together ours were sort of like friendship bracelets, two pieces of the same puzzle meant to visibly brand us as an unbreakable team. Bonnie and Clyde. Batman and Robin. Mother and daughter.

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It’s why I like looking at my hands today. I always wear a little pink-stoned ring on my right ring finger, a gift she gave me for my sixteenth birthday – the same ring she’d gotten from her own mother when she was 16, too. I imagine that if you took a picture of her hand then and placed it next to one of mine now, you wouldn’t be able to decipher a difference. It’s why I like looking at my hands today, but it’s also why I hate it.

See, our hands are so strikingly similar that sometimes, when my mind is elsewhere, I’ll look down and think they’re hers, just for a second. I’ll be pouring myself a glass of Chardonnay, fingertips perched on the stem of a wine glass, or running my hands affectionately through someone’s hair, and just for a second, they don’t feel like they’re attached to my body. Just for a second, she’s alive again. The whole moment lasts maybe a second, but it’s a deep, thick tear right in the middle of me. That second always leaves behind a burn, reminding me right as it ends that she’s gone. When she was alive, I might have thought this momentary confusion to be amusing. Now that she’s not, it feels like a cruel practical joke.

Our faces aren’t as similar as our hands, but our expressions are. I might have blue eyes while hers were hazel, my hair dark and curly while hers was blonde and straight, but our faces have the same shape. The resemblance is strong enough that every once in awhile, when I glance up at a mirror too quickly or catch my reflection in a window in the middle of a conversation, I see her instead of me.

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Grieving as the child of a parent who has passed away is interesting like that – you’re a souvenir of sorts, a physical reminder of the lasting ripples their existence left. You’re your own person, but you’re rendered from their DNA. When she died, I half expected that I would stop working too, like an electric doll that had been unplugged from its power source.

I can’t tell you what grief is like for everyone that’s lost a parent, but I can tell you that shared genes connect you to your grief in a unique and inescapable way. Some people who knew and loved my mom find it a little difficult to look at me and my brother, almost like we’re shaking them out of dream they’d sought as shelter long ago. To sink into that dream ourselves, Connor and I would have to stop looking in the mirror entirely.

It’s difficult to describe what grief feels like in plain terms, but I can tell you what it doesn’t feel like: It doesn’t feel like the nostalgic smile that creeps across your face when you tell an old story, and it doesn’t feel like looking at the framed photo you keep on your nightstand every morning. It doesn’t feel like the phantom sensation of long fingernails gently raking across your skin. These things are all part of my life now, of course, and they all mean something to me. They help me keep her close, but they are remembrance. They are not grief.

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No. Grief is sobbing in a cemetery, head in your hands, grass stains leaving permanent smears on the knees of your jeans. Grief is staring at the wall in the shower, water turned up so hot it leaves visible burns on your skin, your fingers and toes shriveling until you don’t even feel the spray of the water. Grief is a river of emotion that swells up so big it won’t fit inside your body and begins seeping out the wrong crack, showing up as a tattoo that you wear on your arm like a scar. Grief is an ocean, and you are the island.

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You are the island, and with each passing year, you build a new wall. At first you have only a flimsy shelter, sides caving in, roof thatched out of hay. The next year it’s a house, the bricks grouted together haphazardly, a dead bolt freshly drilled into the door frame. Before you know it, your house is a castle, its turrets towering over a thick moat that extends, unbroken, along the entire perimeter of the shoreline.

Unfortunately, life isn’t a fairy tale, and on an island like this, there isn’t anyone mucking through the moat or beating down the door to come inside and find you. There isn’t anyone out there that can break down your walls or excavate you from the tower you’ve tucked yourself inside. No one can save you. No one even knows you’re missing.

My aunt and I were discussing grief recently, an experience she’s a veteran of herself. In the midst of my own reluctance to unveil my feelings, she reminded me that we don’t help anyone by hiding what’s behind closed doors, by keeping everyone outside in hopes that the people we care about will be content to simply play in the yard. She’s right, of course – when we hide our pain and the damage it’s done us we paint a superficial, idealistic portrait of who we are, what grief is, how those of us who’ve lost someone really, truly feel. If we could let other people who are grieving inside, at least, we’d probably all make a really great support group. But if no one can break through the thick walls I’ve built, I thought I’d push them over myself and show you what’s inside.

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On my island, the color of the sky is always suspended somewhere between a clear, calm blue and an opaque, rolling gray. The air is thick and humid, the way the air always is right before it rains; so heavy you can taste it, metallic and sweet on your tongue. In my castle, the paint on the walls is peeling off in thick strips, the ceiling leaking amorphous puddles onto the carpet, the surrounding floorboards warped and slanted. When the days are particularly gray and stormy, mold grows in thick, fuzzy layers on the walls and the ceiling. If I had a neighbor, you’d like his house better. My castle isn’t a place you’d want to take up residence – in fact, you wouldn’t even want to stake out in here for the weekend.

Then again, I probably wouldn’t let you inside to see for yourself. Not on purpose, anyway. The door is locked, and I’m putting out pails to catch the rain where it drips through cracks in the roof.

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I don’t know what the antidote for grief is. On my good days, I look in the mirror and I feel nostalgic. On my bad days, I look in the mirror and my heart breaks.

The walls are always getting taller and thicker on these islands because building them quickly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, a strategy that bars you from both heaven and hell. You’ve done everything you can to shield yourself from pain, but in doing so you’ve deflected so much joy. You’ve hidden yourself from everyone, but you’re angry and hurt when no one sees you. That’s the thing about locked doors, though. They don’t discriminate between friend and foe.

It’s an interesting premise: When you build your own walls, you hold yourself hostage. You can’t cross the ocean alone, it’s true, but you can unlock and open your doors whenever you want, send off a smoke signal to let someone – anyone – know where you are. That you’re lost. That no book you read or movie you watched prepared you for this, for how grief would cling to you and isolate you – because nobody else who’s experienced it wants to let you see inside their desolate, decrepit castles, either. Why would we burden happy people with such a tumultuous and gloomy tour?

But as both my aunt and my stepmom astutely pointed out during recent conversations, we are not amusement parks. Our purpose is honesty, not entertainment. It’s something I wish my mother had known, too. Her castle might have been the tallest one of all, and if I had been able to get inside, I would have grabbed her matching hand and helped her find her way out.

I don’t know what the antidote for grief is. But I know I won’t find it out on this island, behind all these walls. I’m running out of pails to catch the rain, and the place is finally starting to flood.

So this is me, trying to cross the ocean. I’ve only just opened the door, smoke signal in hand, but it’s as good a start as any.


life

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Nothing says “after bars” quite like gardening

Well, friends. It’s official. I have finally secured a full-time job with benefits and a small studio in Chicago.

My apartment is a seven minute (I checked) walk from Mary and Christen’s, which means great things for my social life and horrible things for my liver. If our walk home from the bars on Friday night was an indication of how the coming months will be, then Mary will probably have collected enough plants to start a greenhouse in both of our apartments by spring.

Don't ask.

Don’t ask.

This new promise of apartment shrubbery surely means I must redecorate, so it’s lucky that I purchased myself new bedding for the first time since the eighth grade a couple weeks ago. It is not from PBTeen or pink, and I consider this to be an important sign of maturation.

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I do not yet own a coffee table, bedside table, or couch for my studio, but I have made a few vital purchases, such as old dictionary pages stamped with the Chicago skyline and a wine glass holder for my shower.

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I’m not sure that this purchasing method is entirely pragmatic, as you cannot use either of these items as cookware, but prioritizing has never been my strong suit. I almost bought a juicer, too, but I managed to refrain.

They say a lot about the long, tedious process that is job hunting, but I feel as though no one expresses the desperation of the situation quite as well as this dude:

I never signed up for a billboard myself, but that’s only because I couldn’t afford it. Job hunting makes your reconsider all kinds of things, like your college degree, your general worth as a human being, and whether or not you should throw in the towel and apply at your local McDonald’s instead.

Thankfully the job hunt is now over, and I am very, very excited to be working as a writer at a content marketing agency in the city. I already love all of my coworkers and our building’s proximity to Jimmy John’s, so it’s off to a great start.

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I’ll also still be writing for Whittl on the side, as I love those guys too darn much to stop working for them. My internship with them is by and large the whole reason I was able to fulfill my dream of living in Chicago in the first place and the whole reason I have been able to stay—and I sincerely wish I had been a better addition to their fantasy football league.

My brother Connor and I were catching up today, and after reading a guest post I did for a hilarious dating blogger, he asked me if I would consider doing stand-up comedy with him after he graduates from college. (Side note: Connor is the smarter, funnier, and better-looking Roach sibling. I’m fairly sure that people only keep me around for my endearing lack of conversational boundaries and my ability to out-drink everyone in the room.) I imagine this will only bring shame to our relatives, but I said yes nonetheless and have started on the first skit.

My brother and I are best friends, which is somewhat miraculous considering that A) I never stop talking, and B) he never stops making fun of me. The running joke in the family is that he was completely silent until the age of three because he was pretending to be deaf in an effort to avoid engaging in any kind of conversation with me. (Much to the dismay of my parents, I was speaking in complete, conversational sentences at 18 months and have not slowed down since. Sorry, family.)

Connor makes fun of me so much, in fact, that he could probably do his own skit based entirely on that material alone. When he came to my college graduation, I got lost in the town that I had been living in for four years, and he spent the rest of the drive doubled over laughing in the seat next to me. You can probably imagine how much I fear his first trip to see me in Chicago, as I frequently have to think long and hard about how I can avoid attempting to use the CTA bus system.

They say that your relationship with your father and brother(s) sets the stage for how you interact with men when you grow up, and I would be lying if I said this dynamic has not had a profound effect on my dating life. I have really only talked to and/or dated men who make fun of me incessantly.

This is so ingrained in me, in fact, that I find myself largely turned off by guys who are excessively complimentary. I’m not saying that I like dating assholes, because I certainly do not enjoy that (and I do enjoy genuine compliments), but I am incredibly sketched out by men who only say nice things. I’m quite happy with myself as an individual, but that does not mean that I find my inability to participate in any sport requiring hand-eye coordination cute, and I doubt you do either.

My tendency to select men who err on the side of sarcastic has resulted in not one, but two different guys telling me that they think I should be followed around with a camera. I imagine that if the footage from this hypothetical endeavor were to be turned into an actual show, it would have roughly the same appeal as Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Anyways. You can look for Connor and I’s stand up act to begin in a few years. I will be spending the interim building up enough self esteem to survive what will probably end up being my roast.

In other news, I’m still not quite over the novelty of living in Chicago. I can now take the L without attempting to go the wrong way through the exit turnstile, but I had deep dish pizza for breakfast both days this weekend.

Some things never change.

And Then I Matched With Deep Dish Pizza on Tinder

While getting my first tattoo, I audibly told the tattoo artist that I felt like Harry Potter in that scene where Dolores Umbridge makes Harry carve “I must not tell lies” into his own hand in detention.

My friend Mary while seated next to me for emotional support

For unidentified reasons, the nice man overlooked this incredibly nerdy and situationally inappropriate statement, and I luckily turned out with this sucker:

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In case you were wondering (I know, I know), “fuoco nelle vene” is an Italian phrase that translates to “fire in the veins.” I had it done in my mom’s handwriting in honor of what I consider to be her greatest legacy—living a life directed by awesome, unbridled passion. If anyone out there was still doubting how incredibly Type A I am, here’s a photo of me with the same tattoo rendered in Sharpie from my freshman year of college:

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Regretting not going for “FBGM”now, but hey, what can you do?

That’s right. I planned this tattoo out for four whole years. Upon describing it to my brother, he responded with heartwarming appreciation.

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Alright then.

It’s been a couple weeks since said tatt-ing (is that a thing?) and with school back in session at Mizzou, I am finally beginning to understand that I’m a Real Adult now. Notable differences of Real Adult life include more expensive happy hours and a much larger selection of brunch spots.

Dating in the Real World, however, is much the same as it was in college. If I were going to give the chapter a name (and I obviously am), I would name it Skeptical Katie is Skeptical. This applies in some degree to my attitude towards the male population as a whole, but mostly to Tinder, Online Dating Mecca Of Our Generation. This probably does not surprise you, as calling Tinder a “dating” app is realistically a massive euphemism, but I digress. Matching with people is fun, ok?

Just kidding.

The most interesting observation I’ve made growing up in a tech-saturated generation is how easy it is for all of us to say absolutely anything from behind the protection of our cell phones and computer screens. You see this frequently in many places online (Hello, Erodr), but nowhere do you truly see it quite like you do in the messages you get on Tinder.

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A much more acceptable first Tinder message I received went along with my bio, which proudly proclaims my love for Game of Thrones (obviously). All this particular gentleman said to me was “Hodor.” He technically never said anything but “Hodor” at any point in time, but he wins at the internet nonetheless.

Naturally, Christen, Mary, and I recently put together a list of what will automatically result in a swipe left for a dude. Take heed, Tinder Bros of America, and avoid these things:

  • A selfie taken in your bathroom mirror
  • A picture with a woman we can only assume is your girlfriend (Why are you on Tinder, Tinder Bro?)
  • A selfie of you at the gym
  • A selfie of you flexing
  • A selfie of you flexing at the gym
  • Do you see how we feel about selfies?
  • A message that says “hey” with a winky face (This is the virtual equivalent of having your ass grabbed by a stranger.)
  • A photo of you and 4,590 other people (This requires so much swiping)
  • A photo of you that does not include your face at all (C’mon guys, we’ve seen Catfish)
  • A picture of your sports car
  • A picture of you posing with your sports car
  • Anything taken while crushing Natty Light in PCB or alongside numerous bikini-clad women (Why are you on Tinder, Tinder Bro?!)
  • #TeamFitLife
  • Listing your height in your bio (I’m sorry, sir, you didn’t have to actually do anything to fulfill your DNA)
  • Jorts
  • Excessive hair gel
  • Mug shots (I so wish I didn’t have to type that)
  • Interrogations:

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Swipes right, on the other hand, are really quite easy to procure if you have a few key components:

  • Pictures with puppies
  • Pictures of you doing something even marginally athletic
  • Pictures of you doing something even marginally musical
  • A picture of you doing something really exciting, like backpacking through Europe or attempting a two-story beer bong (What?)
  • A photo of you hangin’ with children (D’awwww)
  • This:deepdish

I briefly tried to imagine what that list would look like had a guy written it about girls and promptly realized it would contain all of three bullet points.

I should note that while Tinder is generally a Bro Battlefield, I cannot totally bash the app—I have met a few pretty nice guys. I cannot say the same thing for OkCupid, on which I spent all of three days before promptly throwing in the towel.

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Besides discussing online dating and meandering through central Lakeview’s bar and bagel scene, the three of us also spent a portion of our weekend at a cat’s first birthday party.

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While I imagine this was really just an excuse to drink at the pool, Piper is quite a wonderful cat, and Ashley and Alex are wonderful cat parents. I hope to one day be able throw an equally awesome party for my human children.

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I also signed up for my first fantasy football draft with the Whittl team this weekend. I wanted to call my team “Cleats and Cleavage” (thanks, Julie), but as I possess neither of those things, I went with The Roach Roster. This is inevitably going to be both terrifying (for me) and hilarious (for everyone else), but I will keep you updated on what I imagine will be crushing failure and many, many beers.

Until next time.

This Isn’t Mario Kart, Ok?

As it turns out, my pre-graduation fears were totally baseless. You can still go out on Thursdays as a Real Person.

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This weekend was borderline magical, and I can sum up my feelings about life in Chicago with one photo:

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I had the privilege of staying in Lakeview on Thursday and Friday night, and spent Saturday night out in downtown Naperville. Though many notable things occurred throughout the weekend, it can be summed up as such:

Chapter 1: Moving Furniture in Wedges

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A potential sitcom that involves Target coffee tables and happy hour deadlines.

Chapter 2: Navigating Traffic in Wedges

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Because standing on foot-wide medians in rush hour traffic downtown is fun, guys.

Chapter 3: Dolphin-shaped Bananas Because Why Not

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RIP Yazmine.

Chapter 4: Drinking with Amanda Kappele

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All I will say is that no one can rally like Mandy Catz can.

Highlights include killermargaritas.com (or Cesar’s, if you want to call it by it’s actual name), a country bar within walking distance, and an actual tiki bar.

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Some Really Awesome Things that have happened as of late: Whittl offered me my job (content strategy and creation, aka getting paid to blog) permanently! The sad news is that my work, while initially 40+ hours/week, doesn’t take enough time to constitute a full-time job any more, so I’m working as a freelancer. I’m super pumped that I get to keep working with my awesome team, but I’m on the hunt for a permanent gig elsewhere as we speak.

That being said, I was tragically unable to move in with Mary and Christen this month. Christen has been so kind as to offer me her blow up mattress as my bed at their place in Lakeview, and I’ve already left a toothbrush and blanket there for safekeeping. I think this is a sign that it’s my new J Slums, and is further proof that my life is just getting more awesome.

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My plan is now to get a studio in Lincoln Park or Lakeview in September, which initially made me very sad—but after some serious introspection, living alone sounds 50 shades of exciting. I have naturally already been so overcome with enthusiasm that I’ve planned out the whole thing.

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I’m going to order a real, tangible copy of the New York Times and do yoga in the mornings and buy weird things that my friends will come over and make fun of me for, like Himalayan Pink Salt and economy-sized tubs of coconut oil. I can walk around without pants on (ok, I might already do this), sing as loud as I want in the shower (my neighbors might disagree), and fill every last nook and cranny of my tiny studio with books.

I can relearn the piano (and by piano, I mean keyboard) and finally finish learning how to play my guitar. I can make a bedside table out of a tree stump (#pinterestqueen) and go absolutely overboard with Christmas decorations come December.

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I luckily have a lot of friends in the area, so I think all in all, the situation is pretty awesome.

That’s the cool part about life right after graduation—getting to handpick all the elements of your life with next to no limitations. When you’re an adult, the only thing you technically have to do is support yourself financially. When you do that, how you do that, and where you do that is all up to you. It’s like playing MASH, except everything is real and it’s generally unlikely that you’ll end up married to Gerard Butler (*sigh*) with a dump truck as your primary form of transportation.

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And MASH doesn’t even include all the little things you build around those basic elements. As I pick out the places I want to live, the different career paths I want to take, and my future (non-pink) bed spread, I find myself thinking a lot more about the kind of person I want to be. There are some things I can’t change about myself—I will always talk too much, I will always worry too much, and I will always take way too many pictures of my food—but I can put a lot more thought into how I handle situations and myself. This is all undoubtedly the result of commuting four hours a day for the last ten weeks, but hey, work with me here.

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How can I be more compassionate and more mature in all of my reactions? What can I do to be more thoughtful? What can I do to treat people better, and how can I listen as much as I talk? (Don’t laugh) What can I do to treat myself better? And what have I been doing that just isn’t working for me anymore? If this sounds like the interior of a Type A’s brain, you’re totally right.

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I do think it’s important, though, to reflect on how all of our everyday decisions contribute to (or detract from) the people we’d like to be. I wouldn’t be Sandy’s daughter if I didn’t think about integrity (and wine) at least once a day, and Adulthood seems like the right time my life to start consciously investing in it. Perhaps most people don’t think about their character like they think of their 401K, but hey, I never claimed I was normal.

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That being said, life is pretty awesome right now. I’m headed to Michigan next weekend with Amanda, Christen, and Alissa, so if we could all take a moment of silence for my liver, I would appreciate it.

Yes, our conversation is named after Alissa

Yes, our conversation is named after Alissa

I’m a little biased, but I’ve got the best family and the best friends in the best city in the world. It doesn’t hurt that Chicago’s craft beer selection makes me want to cry tears of high-ABV joy.

Hopefully next time I post I’ll have a Big Girl job or maybe at least a tan. Until next time—

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Because not every moment can be introspective

 

My Life as a Sitcom, Episode 456

The bad news: For the first time in my life, I am more familiar with the local healthcare scene than the local restaurant scene. My gigantic kidney stone wasn’t ready to make its exit, which I only realized when it decided to bid me a nice “hello!” while at my desk in River North on Monday morning.

The good news: I currently live with a nurse (shout out to Mrs. Herrmann), and I don’t think I totally disturbed the man sitting next to me on the train that I immediately took back into Naperville.

But I could be wrong.

Once I made it back into the burbs and the doctor’s office, my urologist was all, “You could wait and see if the stone ever decides to pass on its own, but you might develop a lethal infection throughout your entire body instead,” so I was like LOL, nope. We scheduled a surgery to have the kidney stone manually removed approximately five minutes later.

It turns out that coordinating a surgery between your urologist and the local hospital is tough, so we had to wait until Wednesday to get the little sucker out. While the doctors were completely confident I would be fine until then, this was unfortunate in the sense that kidney stones are – what shall I call them? – uncomfortable. 

Luckily, I was equipped with enough pain meds that waiting a couple days was just fine. I wasn’t able to head into work on Tuesday, as I was on enough Norco that driving and/or sitting upright weren’t viable options, so I attempted to work from home. This also failed miserably.

I was too nauseous to write or eat solid food, so I instead summoned the therapeutic powers of ice cream (Espresso Chip, to be exact) and sleep until Wednesday morning, when my Uncle Mike picked me up to take me to the hospital. As soon as I got checked in at the Edward’s outpatient unit, I was directed into a room and told to put on the world’s greatest hospital gown. Meet: Bair Paws.

Pre-inflation

A little hose goes into the hospital gown, blowing it up with air in order to regulate your body temperature during surgery. The fully inflated suit is pleasantly toasty, but looks exactly as hilarious as you’re probably imagining.

Although I am a little upset they didn’t give me those cool socks.

I spoke with my doc briefly, and some very hilarious nurses got me all set up on the operating table. My anesthesiologist came in, told me she wished me pleasant dreams (quite kind, in my opinion), and I don’t remember a single thing that happened afterwards.

The surgery turned out to be less of a surgery, technically, and more of a cystoscopy hybrid. I had to Google what a cystoscopy is even though I had one, and they essentially go like this: a doctor goes up through your bladder with a teeny tiny camera and removes the stone using a tool that I probably don’t want to know about, inserting a ureteral stent in its wake.

Super happy fun times

The stent makes sure that fluid can continue to drain from your kidney into your bladder, as the area can swell quite a bit after a kidney stone removal.

A live one

It stays in your body for a few days until the ureter/bladder heals, and then a nurse removes it using a string that hangs out of your bladder somewhat like a tampon string (sorry, folks). This portion of the Kidney Stone Fun is happening for me tomorrow, and I probably should have waited for it to happen before I looked up an actual picture of what’s currently inside my body.

 

The past few days have consisted of further attempts to work from home on prescription pain meds, some initially alarming stent-induced side effects, Harry Potter weekend, more ice cream (Chocolate Xtreme this time), and a few futile attempts to get off the couch. Although not as painful as the kidney stone, the stent is more uncomfortable than I had initially thought it would be – but I’m very happy everything has gone according to plan so far!

I was pretty content to do nothing but sleep the first couple days after surgery, but last night, my boredom reduced me to reading Seventeen magazine as a college graduate. I thought that perhaps it wasn’t entirely inappropriate literature for a 22 year-old when I found my favorite floral hi tops featured in the magazine…

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#trendsetter

…but then I kept reading.

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Anyways.

My dad and Mandy spent the week getting the new cottage in Michigan set up, and it was definitely a relief knowing that they were much closer than they usually are.

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Accepting name suggestions

They’re headed back to Texas as I type this, but I’m pretty excited for them to come back next month! With any luck, I won’t be touring the DuPage medical system, and I’ll be able to join them this time.

The work week begins again tomorrow, and I’m hoping that the stent-removal will go swimmingly and I can rejoin the beautiful city of Chicago ASAP. My bosses have been awesome about letting me take time off, so I’m anxious to make up for some lost time. That, and the patio bars of River North and the loop must miss me by now.

Until next time.

Kidney Stones & Craft Beer: A Tale of One City

I’ve been living in Chicagoland for approximately one month now, and I have a few things to show for my time here so far:

  • Several hundred dollars worth of Metra BNSF passes
  • A watch with a martini where the “5” should be (some things never change)
  • A parking ticket from the city of Aurora
  • A working (albeit loose) knowledge of the general way to navigate myself around the loop, River North, and Michigan Ave (my bad)
  • Several hilarious attempts at hailing cabs, taking the L alone, and being trapped inside public parking lots
  • A kidney stone (also my bad)

I’m hoping to ditch that last one ASAP, but passing kidney stones can be likened to labor in more than one way. Go figure.

I won’t go into the nitty gritty details of the process because it involves fun things like urine sieves and narcotic-laden IV drips, but if anyone uses phrases like “writhing on the floor” and “worst pain of my life” when describing it to you, don’t hesitate to believe them.

I’ll be on my couch for the next two days should you choose to drop by and watch E’s Sex and the City marathon with me.

A few other notable moments of June:

1) Getting Stuck in the Parking Lot at US Cellular (Go Sox And Such)

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I’ll go ahead and state the obvious and say that the real world is not quite like college. Or, in this case, Lot C at the Cell isn’t quite Lot X at Mizzou. When Kelsey and I drove out to meet Natalie, Scott, and Chris for a Sox game, we didn’t even think twice when leaving my car in the lot for – oh, I don’t know, the entire day – while we wreaked havoc on explored the city. When we attempted to drive back to the ‘burbs post-festivities, we realized that all the gates in our lot were completed closed and locked. A very angry looking young man in a golf cart had to come let us out about 45 minutes later, much to our embarrassment and much to his dismay. Lesson learned.

2) Whittl 

Working at a startup has been one of the greatest experiences of my life ever (if you live in the Chicago, you should totally book an appointment online there). I get to walk along the Chicago River on my way to the office every day, have been able to contribute to a bunch of different projects, and have learned approximately 1,000,300 new things. The office is stocked with beer, coffee, and snacks, and I’ve gotten to do some fantastic things, like go to TechWeek Chicago and watch the World Cup with my coworkers at a Mexican restaurant aptly named Patron’s.

I also conveniently work approximately two blocks from Mary, which is great come happy hour.

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Boom.

3) Sleep

This probably sounds incredibly lame, but if you’ve known me for any stretch of time in the last four years, you know that I slept approximately five minutes each night all throughout college. I now go to sleep at 10pm on weekdays. I shit you not. This is probably because I get up at 5am, but hey, I’m proud. And well-rested. I think.

No worries – I’m still my couch-crashing, sleep-deprived self on the weekends.

4) The Roach Family

After spending my entire childhood in Texas, it has been awesome living close to my extended family. I fully realized I could see them whenever I wanted on Father’s Day this year. I was on the phone with my grandpa, and in the middle of our conversation, he was like, “Katie? Do you just want to have this conversation at brunch?”

Touche, grandpa, touche.

My dad and stepmom also recently bought a cottage on Lake Michigan near South Haven, about two hours from Chicago. They’ll be here this weekend before they drag the U-haul out to the new place, and I am so incredibly excited for all the weekends of drinking beer on the beach reconnecting with the Roaches of the greater Chicago area all the time now. With Connor at U of I, this means that my immediate family will be reunited in Chicago frequently, too.

Where dreams come true.

5) Really awesome beer everywhere

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This isn’t really new. Just, you know, notable.

6) Deep Dish Pizza

My Essential Reason For Existing, A Cumulative List:

  • Giordano’s
  • Jet’s
  • York Tavern
  • Gino’s East
  • Lou Malnati’s
  • Working harder, sry guys

7) And, as always, I’ve had more than my fair share of amazing food, wine, and beer since I got here.

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And we’re just getting started.

Overall, my first month in the Windy City has been amazing. Actually, it’s been more than amazing. A bit of an early-life existential crisis led me here about two years earlier than I had anticipated, but it’s clear to me every single pizza-filled day that I made the right decision when I moved to this fantastic, magical city – or, as Jim Roach calls it, The Center of the Known Universe.

Mary, Christen, and I will be signing a lease in the city here in the next month or two, and we have been conducting every possible White Girl Activity we can dream up  (think Pinterest boards and Williams Sonoma trips) in preparation for the big event.

For now, I’m having a blast staying in the suburbs and relaxing with the always fantastic Herrmann family, going out in downtown Naperville and Geneva, and occasionally crashing with Ashley in River North so we can once again terrorize Blackfinn (wait, I think that was just me.)

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It’s all quite ironic at the end of the day. I spent most of last semester lamenting moving across the country while drinking margaritas with Mary, and Kels and I were emotionally preparing ourselves to tearfully end our four-year roommate-ship. Alas, here I am, working in the city, living with Kelsey, getting lunch once a week (ok, more than once a week) with Mary and spending Friday nights in Geneva at Amanda’s. Life after college turns out to be just like college, except with tall buildings and a salary. I think it might be even better.

 

I’m so happy to be here.

 

Jump, Pt. 2

Well, guys, I lied again. I’m not moving to Chicago at the end of the summer.

I’m moving to Chicago on June 1st.

How did I expedite this geographical 180, you ask?

(You probably didn’t, I know.)

As it turns out, my timing might possibly be improving.

That, or the memes Mary sends me are working.

I majorly lucked out and managed to snag an internship at a fantastic Chicago start up called Whittl. Whittl is a new website and mobile app that lets people find the best businesses in their Chicago neighborhood, gives them pricing and extensive info, and lets them book the service straight through the app. I’ll primarily be doing marketing and advertising work, but there are so many cool projects we’ll be working on that I’ll get to help with. I am ridiculously excited to join the team.

I interviewed last week at the office in River North, and when I stepped off the Metra and out of Union Station, I think I stared at the Chicago River for ten whole minutes. It was like that opening scene of Sex and the City where Sarah Jessica Parker pretty much emotionally implodes while walking through the streets of NYC, big hair included.

Yes, that one.

I would have skipped to the office if it wouldn’t have attracted even more attention than the voice guidance on the Google Maps app.

I’ll be living at Kelsey’s house in Naperville until I get an apartment in the city in the fall, so if you’ll be taking the train into/out of Union Station this summer, HMU and we can do cool things together like eat at Burrito Beach and compare notes on 2048 strategies. It’ll be fun.

Besides the obvious benefit of being able to gallivant all over the city on the weekends, this summer will undoubtedly be one for the books because a) pizza, b) pizza, c) all of my college friends somehow live in Chicago (score), and d) Chicago is conveniently located near Palisades Park, Michigan, where the Roach family annually convenes to be sarcastic and push each other into really cold lake water.

Other recent developments of my life:

  • I’ve recently been perplexed by the assumed differences between shampoo and body wash. Are there any actual differences if they both just clean things? I think we’re being duped by sudsy marketing geniuses.
  • Sheridan and Kelsey’s rooms in the Wilson Ave. apartment have been sublet for summer. I was initially quite nervous, as they are two guys I don’t know, but it turns out they’re pretty awesome. When I got back from Chicago, my apartment was sparkling and smelled better than it did with three girls living here, which is saying something, and I have not yet heard a single complaint about the constant presence of my hair on everything in the apartment. One of them is naturally from Dallas, and one is naturally from Chicago, because those are the Important Cities of My Life So Far. We bonded briefly over Pinot Grigio and Pickleman’s, which are really the only things that matter in life.
  • For the second time in college, I have two queen-sized beds in my room. What can you do?
  • I dyed my hair again, so it is now one consistent shade of brown and no longer resembles the “Mahogany Tones” paint swatch spectrum in the Glidden department at Walmart.
  • In an attempt to become a Real Person (aka, you know, a college graduate), I have taken out my belly button ring and am going to part with my 8th grade bed spread/room decorations. I will probably never give away my dolphin coffee table, but it’s a start, right?

My last week in CoMo is upon me and will be spent consuming as much Shakespeare’s, Trops, and $1 Big 12 burgers as humanly possible. It’s happening both a little later and a little earlier than I originally anticipated, but I think I’m ready.

*drool*

While the last month or so of my life has been incredibly tumultuous – and while things looked a bit rough for a hot minute – I am so very, very excited about where my life is headed now. I couldn’t have swung this without the support of my family and friends – thank you so much to everyone who assisted me through my first quarter life crisis. I love you guys, and I owe you several beers.

Let the adventure begin.

Jump

When anyone asks me how I feel about my impending graduation from college, I usually enter into a fit of maniacal laughter and/or a soliloquy that goes something like this:

I think if I’m being completely honest, though, I’d say that it feels something like standing on the edge of a cliff. It’s not a bad feeling, not completely. It’s liberating and it’s terrifying. It’s thrilling.

I jumped off an actual cliff once. I was about ten years old, and it was about 20 feet tall. The cliff was directly beside a waterfall and fell into a murky, ethereal lagoon. I remember it vividly. I had never wanted to do anything more or anything less in my entire life. I must have walked up and down the wet, moss-clad rocks three or four times, gauging all the risks of throwing my body into the opaque water like every anxiety-ridden fourth grader should.

Try not to laugh.

How deep was the water? How hard would I hit the surface? Were there rocks at the bottom, and was I really old enough to be doing this? If I waited 20 more minutes, would I maybe be ready then?

No matter how many times I talked myself out of it and slid back down the rocks to the base of the waterfall, I couldn’t take my eyes off that cliff. I was mesmerized by it. I wanted to feel the adrenaline of jumping off it so badly, but I froze every time I toed the edge. So I waited at the bottom. I remember it vividly.

I don’t know what finally got me off the edge, to be honest. I think I must have realized that eventually I would have to leave that lagoon, and that when I did, I was going to have jumped off a cliff or I was going to have stared at one.

When I finally went through with it, my hands were shaking, and I’m fairly sure I was talking to myself – pre-wine nervous habits, you know how it goes – but I jumped anyway. I made the decision in that moment that it was ok to be scared – but I never wanted to be someone who played it safe. So I jumped anyway.

I jumped three or four times, actually. As it turns out, I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

And so I find myself here again, standing at the metaphorical edge of my latest waterfall, staring out into the water, weighing the risks of jumping. As all four of you who read this know (hi again, Aunt Lisa), I decided during the winter to attend grad school at UT. I’ve been planning on going to graduate school essentially since college started, or maybe even before that. As the daughter of highly educated and highly intelligent parents, it’s possible that I factored it into my plans since I knew I’d go to college way back when I was jumping off that waterfall in elementary school. When the time to sign up for the GRE rolled around, I didn’t even blink.

 I’d been so adamant about attending,in fact, that I failed to listen to some very wise advice I received from a professor (as well as many, many peers) back in November on the subject of my practical need for a masters degree. As it turns out, that practical need is about a -5. A summer internship in Dallas fell through recently, and as I reevaluated my imminent plans along with my bedraggled bank account, I evaluated something else.

Turns out, I’m not.

If I had no need for grad school, then why was I going?

If the end of my higher education is the edge of a cliff, then adulthood – and everything that goes along with it – is the dark water out in front of it. Sometimes I feel like the better option is just climbing back down to the edge of the water, watching other people jump until I feel ready, until I feel like I’ve crafted myself a no-risk plan that buys me a little more time to prepare for the real world. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t scared of jumping now. It’s still terrifying in a thrilling kind of way. But I want to jump, and I don’t want to sit at the bottom and watch. I decided a long time ago that I won’t sit something out because I’m scared.

So as you may have guessed, I won’t be going to grad school in the fall. After countless hours of advice/therapy from my professors, friends, peers, parents, and mentors, it’s clear that it’s not the right choice for me. So – what’s next?

Hell if I know.

What I do know is that if I’m jumping, I’m going to jump the sh** out of this cliff. So, at the instruction of the many people that have counseled me over the past couple weeks, I’ve decided to just go for it. I’m moving to Chicago as soon as my lease in Columbia runs out at the end of the summer.

I’m currently applying for All The Jobs Ever in the city and frequently assaulting Mary with ridiculously detailed, distant potential plans while coercing her and Christen (shout out to Christen if you’re reading this!) to live with me in the city next year.

So with that news, this blog will imminently turn into a deep dish pizza and refurbished furniture blog. Stay tuned.

And, errr, please ignore the last three or four geographically-erratic entries.

My bad.

Cheers

Spoiler alert:

Today I started on a graduation slideshow for me and my college friends, as we’ve all been BFFz since freshman year.

Oh God.

Oh God.

Laws for Life.

Laws for Life.

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The magic of UP

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Additional spoiler alert: I’ve already cried once, but that’s probably because this is the song I’ve chosen for the slideshow:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8piAL5rD6wI

(Note: for dramatic effect, read this post while listening to this song)

Mary and I made a late-night, last-minute trip to BBCII after we finished our homework last night (because what else?) and internally sobbed at the concept of living in different states for the next two years. As those of you who read my blog regularly (hi, Aunt Lisa) know, I made the difficult decision to wait to move to Chicago until post-grad school back in November. The parental units (and extended family) offered sage advice, saying that for this stage of my life, it’s more important to pick a program for the program and then choose the location in the next chapter. As sad as I am to [briefly] say goodbye to my college friends, I’m incredibly excited for the next two years I have ahead of me in Austin.

They say that the friends you make in college will be the friends you have for the rest of your life. As I sat at my dad’s college roommate’s house this past summer, drinking copious amounts of wine while watching the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup, he looked over at me and said, “This is what you have to look forward to.”

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So many hair colors, so little time.
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Don’t ask.

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This just screams "Summer's here are 70 degrees," am I right?

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I could wax poetic about how wonderful my time at Mizzou has been, and how college has surpassed my expectations by a landslide. I could, but it wouldn’t do my time here justice.

So here’s a cheers to the people that made this the best four years of my life. Cheers to friends that helped me through the toughest of times, and the ones who showed me what true, unconditional support is like. Cheers to the drunk times, the hungover times, the hungry times, and the “ohmygodIcan’tbelieveIdidthat” times.

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Cheers to Florida, Chicago, Texas, Wisconsin, Malibu, and all the in-betweens. Cheers to couch crashing, Burnetts drinking, Dobbs brunching, Sonic challenging, and way, way too much pizza.

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(JK. That’s not a thing.)

Cheers to finding my second family. Cheers to piercings at tattoo parlors, Excursions Which Must Not Be Named, frat-hopping, bar-crawling, McDonalds drive through-ing, and group half marathon training (lol).

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Cheers to the people who made me a better person than the one that drove up here four years ago.

But, more than anything? Cheers to the rest of our lives. I can’t wait to share mine with you.

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That One Time I Spent Christmas Break in My Attic

There weren’t any lost family heirlooms I was perusing the depths of my house for, there was no forgotten wardrobe that led to Narnia that sucked me in for three weeks full of adventure, and I did not do anything that pissed off my family so badly that they wanted to exile me for the holidays (at least not that I know of.) No, no. It was much less exciting.

I left Columbia for break a few days after most – partially to work, and partially because the mere thought of hauling all of my laundry into my trunk the day after finals made me want to cry. I woke up in the morning and the left side of my neck was sore, and all of the glands in my neck were incredibly swollen. My first thought, of course, was that it was every tragic form of cancer combined with that weird new strain of meningitis, but if you know me, that probably doesn’t surprise you.

I went home, and nothing else happened for a few days.

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My friends and I went out a few times, and eventually got a stuffy nose. Pffffff. I laugh in the face of stuffy noses. So I went to my family’s Christmas party, went out a few more times with friends, and then my eyeballs started hurting. I shit you not. My eyeballs. I talked to my stepmom, and she determined it was most likely a sinus infection. Ehhh. Worse things could happen than a sinus infection, right?

Christmas day came and went, and at that point, I had a sore throat as well. I brushed this off as one of those things that happens when you can’t properly breathe out of your nose.

I made a doctor’s appointment for the following Monday, just to check it out, and in those three days I got even sicker. I went into the doc’s office, and he determined that yep – I had a sinus infection AND strep throat. I picked up my antibiotics, skipping out of Walgreens thinking that I’d be all better by New Year’s Eve if I slept a lot. I holed up in the darkest, coziest room in our house, a portion of our attic that we renovated into a media room, and decided not to emerge until I was once more a shining beacon of health.

No luck. I spent New Years Eve in the attic-media room watching the New Years Eve version of Girl Code for some reason I’m unsure of and went to bed right after midnight, clutching throat lozenges and a box of tissues.

Girl Code, ladies and gentleman.

Come Thursday morning, a few hours before Mary’s arrival in Dallas, I sat up in bed after another completely sleepless night, turned on Netflix, turned off Netflix, turned back on Netflix, and lay in bed staring at the ceiling for a bit. I went and looked at my incredibly swollen tonsils in the mirror and decided to call my doctor up and tell him I wasn’t responding to the antibiotics. He couldn’t hear what I was saying at all, of course, because I sounded like I was trying to sing while playing “Chubby Bunny” with jumbo-sized marshmallows, but I’m pretty sure he took that as a tragic sign and called me back in to run a few more tests. Back to the doctor I went to while my brother Connor picked up Mary from DFW and I tried to audibly spell my last name for the nurse at the check-in desk.

Yes, like the bug.

After one test, it was concluded: Mono. I have monooooooooo.

They call it “the kissing disease.” Someone should let them know there are more than one of those, but I digress. They gave me a steroid shot and told me that within a few hours, my throat would start to return to normal size. I almost kissed both my doctor and my nurse, but then, you know, they’d have mono too.

Connor and Mary came to get me from the doctor’s office, and I was so excited that I would have a little bit of relief soon that I incoherently held a conversation for the first time in something like five days. Mono was an extra horrible infection for me to get because it took away two of my greatest loves: eating and talking. I’m also not a great sleeper unsupervised to begin with, so this exacerbated an existing problem and left me with nothing at all to do but watch TV and read things. Here is an exhaustive list of what I did for a week and some change:

  • “Sex Sent Me to the ER”: I mean, wouldn’t you watch that?
  • “Ancient Aliens”: It’s on the History Channel. I’m a nerd.
  • “The Carrie Diaries”: I know. I’m sorry.
  • “Blue Mountain State”
  • “No Strings Attached”, twice in a row because I was too tired to change the channel
  • “The Signature of All Things”: Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book. I highly recommend it!
  • “Freakonomics”, because that’s what happens when you shop in Jim Roach’s library.
  • “16 Candles”
  • “Mystic Pizza”
  • “My Strange Addiction”
  • “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding”
  • “Gypsy Sisters” (because why not?)
  • “The Host”
  • “Game of Thrones”
  • Snap chatted my demented voice to my friends, which I’m sure they thoroughly enjoyed
  • Reorganized my Pinterest boards
  • Redid my Twitter background and cover photo (is that a cover photo…?)
  • Looked at throat in mirror and saw what “pustules” are.
  • Googled pustules and found out why they hurt so much.
  • Cried once. Slapped self for crying.

There was something like a seven pound difference between my weight that Monday and my weight that Thursday, as I couldn’t swallow my own spit, much less any real food. While it was very uncomfortable, I’m trying to find the silver lining and have recently been calling it “Spring Break ’14 Jump Starter Kit.”

I’ve been slowly but steadily returning to health since Mary’s arrival in Texas, so she’s probably my good luck charm. I couldn’t go to the Cotton Bowl, but we should have known something was going to happen. When the bowl game is decidedly twenty minutes from your house, one of your best friends is already visiting at that time, you manage to be the first to buy tickets (both plane and game), AND her flight out of ChiBeria (thank, Amanda) is on time, IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Not that I’m bitter, of course.

We had a brief but meaningful time together.

We had a brief but meaningful time together.

I sent my more than capable best friend to the game with Mary though, and she, as every good friend would, actually pretended to be me.

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They had a wonderful time, and I watched the game from my attic-TV room, screaming at the TV and emphatically blowing my nose. The next day, I was even better, so Mary and I ventured out to Babe’s for dinner with Lindy. For those who don’t know, Babe’s is a fried chicken warehouse that has been very near and dear to my family over the past fifteen years or so. There are two options: fried chicken or chicken fried steak, and all of the sides (mashed potatoes, creamed corn, biscuits with honey, and salad) are served family style. It was the first real meal I was able to eat since I my mono hit its peak 10 days ago.

I couldn’t eat much, BUT Y’ALL, IT FELT SO GOOD.

Anyways.

We went to Cat’s house for awhile afterwards, where everyone played Circle of Death while I drank water and enjoyed watching my friends get rather drunk. It was a very hydrating experience.

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Today I felt even better, so Mary and I ventured out to Esparza’s in downtown Grapevine and then went to see Frozen, which is a life changing Disney Movie that directly embodies how my life would play out if I were a Disney princess. Anna, the main character, is enthusiastic and clumsy. She falls in love with a man who sells ice and is best friends with a reindeer named Sven. They eventually befriend a snowman named Olaf, who is a total badass, and they all slide around joyfully on the ice and snow, sometimes whimsically falling off of cliffs and dancing with trolls.

Our game plan is to drive back to Columbia on Tuesday, but all of the midwest is an apocalyptic frozen wasteland at the moment, so we’ll just see about that. Texas is snow-free, and there’s a lot of guacamole here.