Monday, December 17, 2012

"Keep it classy, lawyer dude."

I got dumped last week, but that's not what I'm upset about. I'd had my own lingering doubts over the months we'd been dating and never quite felt as head-over-heels as I thought I should. He'd been "busy" and I thought that perhaps not seeing much of him was keeping me from feeling that intangible feeling I thought I was supposed to feel with the right person, so I was waiting it out until after the holidays to see if it got better. Regardless, the rejection of getting dumped still stings a little, but I'm hurt for another reason.

Apparently he'd made up his mind about us weeks ago and (by his own admission) was just avoiding telling me. Things came to a head over the weekend when he said he'd let me know about whether we could do something on Saturday. He never touched base with me and so on Sunday morning I texted him to tell him I was irritated by his blowing me off. No response. So I texted him Monday morning and still got no response. Fed up, I decided to call him and tell him that we obviously weren't on the same page and we should probably take advantage of the holidays to figure out what we wanted going forward (I was traveling for work and couldn't do it face-to-face). He didn't take my call. What he did instead was respond with a lengthy text message telling me that while he enjoyed hanging out with me, he didn't have the "right feelings" for me. 

It's the fact that he avoided me for weeks, ignored my text messages and call, and then finally dumped me via text message that really hurts. It shows that he had absolutely no respect for me, my time, or my feelings. At the very least, he owed me the courtesy of a conversation. Over the phone or face to face, I don't really care. But I believe that if you have respect for someone, you at least give them the courtesies of being honest and hearing their response. It's what decent people do for each other, even under difficult circumstances.

In retrospect, I shouldn't be surprised at how he dumped me. When Juliette died he  expressed only minimal concern for me and never once asked how I was handling her death. I chalked it up to him not knowing how to comfort me and never having lost a pet himself. When we had our one and only fight, he didn't acknowledge that he hurt my feelings or apologize until much later. Instead, he turned the aftermath of the argument into beating himself up for his behavior and avoiding me. Both incidents gave me pause, but I was willing to wait it out a bit longer and see if he became more emotionally available over time. In retrospect, that probably never would have happened. He avoided me and my emotions when were dating, he did it when he dumped me via text message, and if we'd continued dating, he probably would have done it throughout our relationship. In short, he's an avoider. 

I, on the other hand, am a confronter, so I sort of expected myself to react much more strongly. Instead, I responded with two text messages. The first said, "Okay, then," and the second one told him that for future reference, text message was not the appropriate medium for breaking up with someone. I beat myself up for a while and wondered what it was about me that made someone respect and value me so little that he'd dump me that way. I still find myself falling into that way of thinking, but more and more I'm realizing that 1) I'm better off without someone who treats other people that way, and 2) if that really is his M.O., we wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway.

At the very least, two good things have come out of this. First, I was reminded of what an amazing group of friends I have. One friend had me over to her apartment where we watched Hot Fuzz and drank beer while she baked me chocolate chip cookies. Because she's awesome. Another distracted me by inviting me out for drinks, and countless others listened to me vent. And all my friends expressed what I would describe as the only appropriate responses in this scenario. 

A sampling, for your reading pleasure:

"Is he 12?!?!"
"What a fucking coward!!!"
"I don't even know what to say." (Yes, speechlessness is an appropriate response in this instance.)
"Dude's a prick."
"What an asshole."
"The guy's being a jerk."
"Well, that's just wrong."

And my personal favorite: "Keep it classy, lawyer dude."  

(For context, he is a lawyer, in case that wasn't obvious.)

See? My friends are an amazing, empathetic, and articulate bunch. And I am lucky.

The other good thing to come out of this is actually for all of you. I had already purchased a couple Christmas gifts for the guy, and while the majority of them are things that I can happily use myself (an assortment of locally produced hot sauces from around Texas, for example), there is one item I most definitely cannot use or return. And so, I'm giving it away to one of you lucky people.

Let me preface this by saying that it was a gag gift. You must keep that in mind.

It's a pair of these Sriracha (aka rooster sauce) boxer shorts from The Oatmeal, size XL. I imagine they'd make an excellent (free-to-you-but-will-probably-arrive-a-little-late-but-hey-free-is-free) Christmas gift or stocking stuffer.

How can you win them? Just leave a comment on this post before 11:59pm CST on Wednesday, December 19. One comment per person; any comments after your first one will not be valid entries. Be sure to include an email address so I can contact you and get your mailing address if you've won. I'll use the random number generator over at to select one lucky winner from all the comments. So go on, hurry up and comment and get yourself some free boxer shorts!

Look at that: lemons into lemonade! I'm just like Jesus, I tell you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Little Things

There is no denying that sometimes life shits all over you. There's also no denying that sometimes life hands you something beautiful just when you need it. The announcement that my favorite musician ever, Josh Ritter, has a new album coming out in March and that his tour will take him through Austin is just about the best news I could have received this week. This new song, Joy to You Baby, is perfection. I love it.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all

I am grateful for an increasing knowledge of who I am, and for growing more comfortable with that knowledge every day.

I am thankful for the time I had with those I have loved and who loved me back, especially my sweet, precious Juliette. I would not trade that time for anything.

I am grateful for the life experiences that have made me stronger, even if they were unpleasant at the time. They made me who I am now, and that is better than who I was before.

I am thankful for discovering the phrase, "Not my circus, not my monkey."

I am grateful for 12 life-affirming days in Paris, and sunsets, and friends who indulge my themed birthday parties at the ripe old age of 32, and possibility, and wine, and tea, and roller skates, and pinatas, and freedom, and life after loss.

I am thankful for yesterday, and today, and tomorrow, even if they suck.

I am grateful for this moment, regardless of what it does or doesn't lead to.

I am thankful for it all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Clearly, Kittens Will Be My Undoing

Note: While this post has a somewhat hilarious ending, it does contain a scenario that might be a "trigger" for some people who have experienced violence or trauma.

I woke up at 2am this morning to the sound of an unfamiliar man's voice in my house. I live alone, no men have keys to the house, and I knew the deadbolt was locked when I went to bed. I immediately panicked: a strange man was in my house, and I had no way to defend myself. I grabbed the heavy Maglite flashlight that my dad gave me when I moved into my college dorm (and taught me to hold over my shoulder and wield like a baton if necessary). I huddled in my bed and listened. The man sounded like he was talking to himself, almost carrying on a conversation with himself. His voice rose and fell, got louder and then quieter. I thought I saw lights flicker and wondered if maybe a crazy person had broken in and taken up temporary residence in my living room. My heart raced and I was terrified.

After several minutes of holding my breath and listening, I decided to call 9-1-1. I whispered into the phone that I thought there was someone in my house. My voice was shaky and I had to repeat the address three times. The dispatcher kept asking me whether anyone was staying with me, if I had given anyone a key. At one point I snapped, "Jesus Christ, just send someone already!" The dispatcher stayed on the line with me for the entire 12 minutes it took for the police officers to arrive. I had images of the police finding me bloody and dead by the time they finally arrived. Finally the dispatcher told me to go out the front door and the officers would be waiting for me. I streaked through the house clutching my flashlight, threw open the front door, and ran out onto the porch.

Two of the officers went through the house, clearing every room and closet, while I waited outside. I stood on the porch, clutching my flashlight, my knees shaking, terrified of what they'd find. I couldn't catch my breath and my heart was still racing. Finally, the officers came out and told me that they didn't find anyone inside. "Are you serious?!?" I snapped. But no, there was no one else in the house. They asked me if maybe the television had turned itself on; I said no, that wasn't it. Two other officers came around from the backyard; they didn't find anything either. I was shocked and still scared. They had to have missed something. But the officers left, telling me to lock the doors and call back if I needed them again.

I went inside and locked the door. As I walked back toward my bedroom, I heard what sounded like white noise coming from my dining room. My laptop was sitting open on the table. I sat down at the table and woke the computer from sleep mode, and up popped my browser. It was tuned to the streaming kitten cam I'd been watching earlier in the day. I had a sinking feeling, and backed the video feed up by about 20 minutes. And there was the kittens' foster dad sitting in front of the camera, talking to viewers around the world about the litters of kittens he's fostered. It was the exact same voice I'd heard earlier. I had scared myself half to death and summoned four police officers to my home in the middle of the night because I'd left a kitten cam streaming on my computer.

Humiliated doesn't even begin to cover it.

Readers, if you take only one lesson away from this story, let it be this: friends don't let friends watch kitten cams. Period.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ten Things I Learned from My Cat, or Goodbye to a Friend

For those of you living under a rock, my sweet little kitty Juliette died last Thursday. At 15 years old, she was well into her golden years. She had been in chronic kidney failure for at least a year and a half, and a few weeks ago I noticed she was eating less and losing weight again. I took her to her specialist who immediately did an ultrasound. She diagnosed Juliette with a kidney tumor that had metastasized throughout her abdomen. She prescribed steroids, but they had little effect. After several days of coaxing and pleading on my part, Juliette stopped eating and drinking entirely and slept almost all day long. She no longer purred when I pet her. I spoke with her regular vet, and we agreed it was time to let her go before she suffered any more or experienced any pain. It was a terribly sad decision and one I didn't want to ever have to make, but I couldn't justify keeping her around just so I could have her in my life for a few extra days. It simply wasn't fair to her. Her death was quick and peaceful.

Juliette came to me 8 years ago from a boyfriend who lived halfway across the country. He had five or six cats in his house at the time (a sign in and of itself) and at 7 pounds she was the runt of the bunch. She was bullied by the other cats and afraid of virtually everything, so she lived on top of a kitchen cabinet that was beneath the access to the attic. Her food and water were on top of the cabinet with her, and when she wanted to go out she bumped her head against the access panel and went up and out through the attic; she waited on top of the carport for him to bring her inside when she was done. Essentially out of sight and therefore out of mind, she got very little attention. But I thought she was adorable, so one day I climbed a footstool and reached for the far corner of the cabinet where she was huddled and petted her just a little. I created a monster. From then on, any time I was in the room she stood on top of her cabinet and meowed incessantly until I got a stool and climbed up to pet her. She was still skittish, though, and would retreat to the farthest corner for several minutes before she'd finally let me pet her. Eventually she trusted me enough to let me pet her readily, and after a couple weeks I started bringing her down from the cabinet and taking her into a secluded bedroom for an hour or two at a time, trying to acclimate her to life on the ground. Slowly, she began to trust me and let me hold and pet her without hesitation.

My then-boyfriend and I agreed that she'd do much better in a single-cat household, so I flew her back to Austin with me. Once I let her out of her carrier and she cautiously prowled the apartment to confirm she was, indeed, the only cat around, she began to blossom into an entirely different cat. She explored. She played. She stopped looking for high spots when she was scared. She claimed windowsills and chairs and pillows as her own. She was friendly with everyone who came over, demanding petting and affection like she was making up for lost time. Over the years we shared two apartments, one half of a duplex, and a house. She was there when I left to get married, and she was still there when I came home from getting divorced. She was my constant companion during most of my twenties and into my thirties, and through what I now call some of my most formative experiences. She was my friend.

I am extraordinarily sad without her. I hear sounds that trick me into thinking she's trotting down the hall, and I look at her favorite spots and still expect to see her sitting there. I was handling her collar and the tags clinked together, a familiar sound that made me turn my head and look for her. It's worst when I first wake up in the morning or right before bed, when I have to omit steps in my old routine and am acutely aware that she's gone. No more feeding her, leaving the bathtub faucet dripping for her, or cleaning her litterbox. 

But I'm also so grateful to have had her in my life. Like many pets, she loved unconditionally. She always wanted to be close to me and followed me from room to room. She was affectionate and playful. She was a great companion for the eight years I had her in my life, and despite all the sadness I feel right now, I wouldn't trade a single day I had with her to escape it.

I've never really had to grieve a loss like this before. Although several of my grandparents have died, I wasn't especially close to any of them once I moved to Texas. I saw them once or twice a year at best. But I saw Juliette every day, and I cared for her. We loved each other in our own ways. The grief feels so heavy and foreign and I'm not sure how to navigate it. In the moments when I'm able to think about her without falling to pieces, I remember that having her in my life made it better in so many ways. The best way I know to memorialize her is to share that with the world. And so, without further ado, I give you Ten Things I Learned from My Cat.

1. Don't be stingy with your affection.
If there was one quality that defined Juliette more than any other, it was the total abandon with which she desired and doled out affection. When anyone walked into the room, especially a new person, it was time to rub on them and snuggle them and head butt them while they petted her. She expected you to lavish the love on her, and in exchange she did the same. She kneaded strangers' tummies and rubbed on their faces and purred her happy little head off the entire time. She gave love freely, and in exchange she got it back in equal measure. We should all be so lucky.

2. Ask for what you want.
And don't take no for an answer. You can start by asking for it gently, like Juliette did: reaching out and gently laying a paw on my arm, scratching lightly, until I turned and petted her. If that doesn't work, step it up a notch: say (or meow) something. If that goes unheeded, get louder (because obviously they didn't hear you). If Juliette felt like playing in the middle of the night, she'd bring one of her toys into the bedroom and yowl loudly until I finally woke up. No matter how many times I took the toy away and stowed it away somewhere out of reach, she'd repeat the performance another evening. She never got her way, but she knew it didn't hurt to ask.

"It's not begging unless you're desperate."

3. Forget about the bad stuff ASAP.
One of the benefits of having a smaller brain is having a shorter memory. Juliette's short memory meant she quickly forgot about the times I accidentally stepped on her tail, or kicked her out of her favorite spot on the couch, or even left her at the vet overnight when she was sick. If something didn't continue to affect her daily life, she didn't continue to remember it. I imagine that not hanging onto the little bad things made her life much more worry-free.

4. Never, ever do anything you don't want to do unless you absolutely have to.
Claws are good for a lot of things, but some of their best uses include hanging onto furniture for dear life when someone tries to move you somewhere you don't want to go and shredding someone's arms when they're trying to dose you with medicine you don't want to take. Juliette never saw any good reason to do anything she didn't want to do, and as a result she spent the vast majority of her time doing everything she loved: napping, lazing in sunbeams, getting petted, and playing with her toys. While I know I can't completely shirk my responsibilities, spending a little less time shrugging off the things I don't care for would probably improve my quality of life quite a bit.

5. There is no such thing as too many naps.
Juliette understood the power of a good, solid nap. On the windowsill, on the bed, in a chair, or on a pillow, she knew that naps were good for the soul. I followed her example and indulged in my own semi-regular naps, sometimes with her. At the end, she'd crawl under the covers, snuggle up next to my stomach, and purr until she finally fell asleep.

6. Sharing is overrated, unless you want someone else to do it with you.
Your favorite spot is your favorite for a reason, and since you only have one favorite spot, you can't share it without losing it for yourself. The easy solution is not to share it. It's yours, you claimed it first, and you're keeping it. But if you see someone eating a little bit of cheese you'd like to eat, or snuggling under a blanket that looks like it'd be awfully warm around you, there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't insist they share it with you. And if they won't share it? Just steal it. That'll teach 'em.

"Your pillow? What do you mean this is your pillow? Finders keepers, loser."

7. There's nothing as tasty as a cool drink of water. Or salmon. Or bread. Or ice cream. Or cheese. Pretty much anything, really.
Juliette was a girl who had her priorities in order when it came to food. First, she was a carb fiend: flour tortillas, baked goods, and most especially, breads. Any kind of bread was fine, but specialty breads were best: challah, babka, and a good French bread were top notch. She would meow and paw at me until I finally tore off a tiny piece and put it at her feet, and when she was done with that she'd meow and paw until she got some more. The same thing was true with cheese: in her final days, bits of melted cheese that I pulled off my quesadilla were the only thing she would eat. Canned salmon and tuna were reliable favorites, and she absolutely loved to lick my ice cream bowl clean. But really, nothing could ever compare with fresh water, dripping straight from the faucet. Juliette knew what she liked and she took every opportunity to get her paws on it through begging, coercion, or just plain adorableness.

8. A girl can never have too many shoes.
This one really ought to go without saying. Juliette loved shoes - the stinkier the better. She sniffed them and rubbed on them and sometimes she even slept with them. One time she even took her favorite toy and stuck it in one of my sandals. 

9. Cleanliness is next to goddessliness.
Like many cats, Juliette was fastidious when it came to hygiene. She kept her coat clean, shiny, and fluffy. Her paws were usually litter-free and her claws were sharp. And Juliette made hygiene a priority: she wasn't above plopping herself down in the middle of the hallway, leg up in the air in some sort of feline yoga pose, and cleaning herself whenever she saw the need. Juliette knew that while appearances may not be everything, they're definitely worth keeping up.

10. Celebrate the little things.
Like pooping. Sometimes when Juliette would finish in her litterbox, she'd sprint from the bathroom, around the corner, through the bedroom, across the hallway, and leap onto her cat tree, where she would scratch on the post excitedly. She'd pooped! She'd pooped! Oh happy day, she had pooped! Sometimes, it's the little victories of everyday life (like still having control of our bowels) that we need celebrate to remind ourselves that life is good.

I miss Juliette every day, but I also love remembering her. I'll never be able to replace her, but I can celebrate her life and the time we had together. 

Goodbye my dear, sweet Juliette. You were an amazing friend, and I love you with all my heart.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Down But Not Out

I've been a little AWOL lately, here and elsewhere. I haven't been feeling like myself - I'm not sleeping at night but sleeping plenty during the day, my mind is racing near constantly, and I frequently want to stab otherwise perfectly pleasant people with the nearest screwdriver. At first I blamed it on PMS because the timing was right, but PMS doesn't last for weeks. It took a little wake-up call before I could be honest with myself: my depression is breaking through, and I'm not managing it well.

I've written about my experiences with depression before. It's a life-long condition - a chronic disease, some would say - for me, and I'm lucky that it's usually well-managed with medication and a counselor who's not afraid to tell me when I'm completely full of shit. Most of the time, I don't even have to think about it. But once or twice a year it rears its ugly head, usually when there's a confluence of events that stack up like dominoes and fall in perfect succession. This time, work stuff and volunteer stuff and personal stuff all got their punches in. My bosses canceled a project I was really invested in, making me realize that their priorities don't match up with mine and that I probably don't have a rock star future in that office. That same day I got news that I'd been passed over for a volunteer position I really wanted, leaving me feeling disappointed and unappreciated. I haven't been able to progress in roller derby because my shoulder refuses to heal. My 15-year-old cat who's in kidney failure, Juliette, has been eating less and sleeping more lately, leading me to believe the end is approaching. And I recently started a new relationship with an awesome guy whom I really like, but the uncertainty of where it might go and what he thinks of me is wracking my nerves and leaving me twisted up in knots. The end result of all this is that my anxiety is through the roof and every minor irritation puts me more on edge. I'm an angry, irritable, moody, exhausted basketcase.

The worst of it all is the anxiety. I'm constantly trying to manage everything around me, and worrying about everything I can't manage. I grasp at superficial ways to control things: pushing my manager to define my workload for the upcoming year, asking the awesome guy to define our relationship too soon, offering Juliette four or five different foods in the hopes that she'll eat enough of one or any of them to stay over five pounds. When all that doesn't "fix" things, I start to consider the only real pieces of control I have: considering quitting my job, resigning my volunteer position, not showing up to roller derby practice, and quitting seeing the awesome guy all together. It's ridiculous, because none of those are what I really want, but the out-of-control feeling the anxiety is produces is so uncomfortable that they start to look like attractive options.

A far smarter (and funnier) woman than me pointed out that depression lies. It makes me think that things are far more dire than they are, but worse, it makes me believe that being in control is the answer to my problems. Intellectually, I know that being in control wouldn't fix everything, but emotionally, I believe that it would. I just can't believe that being in control wouldn't make everything better.

So right now I cling to the following words, and repeat them to myself over and over and over again, hoping they'll finally take: 
"No matter what happens, in control or not, everything will be okay."
Whether I get to do the big project I fell in love with or not. Whether I serve at one level or another in an organization. Whether people listen to my opinions and take my advice or not. Whether he calls or not. It will all be okay. I will still wake up in the morning (or afternoon, because let's be honest), and I will still have the same friends who love me, and I will still be able to make ice cream and write and roller skate, even if I don't do any of it as well as or under the exact circumstances I want. 

I will be okay.

I try to breathe and believe that, because I have to ride this wave out, and it's the only thing that will get me through.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Third Eye Blind

I do a fair amount of complaining about my job (all completely legitimate, of course). It's moments like this one that make it worth showing up every day:

Me: "I'm sorta ready to stab someone in the eyeball."

Sarah (the Awesomest Coworker Ever): "I wish I had a spare eyeball for you."

That's true love, my friends.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In the Meantime

I've got a real post percolating inside me somewhere (upon a second reading that sounds kinda gross, but I'm too lazy to recraft those words, so... suck it up, buttercup), but I'm not quite able to put it into words. In the meantime, I've been listening to the new Mumford & Sons Album* non-freaking-stop, and I'm madly in love with it. And that's not an exaggeration.

*In the interest of full disclosure: if you click on this link and purchase the album, I will get a (very) small percentage of the sale as a commission. If you like the video above and decide to buy the album, I hope you'll consider using the link above to do so.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Which One of You Was Writing about Me on the Bathroom Wall?

Last year I joined Meetup, a networking site built around common interest groups that get together for activities - book clubs, happy hours, trying new restaurants. It also has tons of singles groups. It also has a little feature that will send you email notifications when someone creates a new group that fits Meetup's profile of your interests. Today I got one announcing this group:

So apparently that's my reputation around town now.

P.S. - No, I don't have herpes. Dumbass.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Think I Love Her

Today's happy moment came early: my coworker delivered hot coffee to my desk. I didn't even have to ask for it - she offered and picked it up on her way in.

I swoon.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reason #976 I'm Single

A conversation with my boss...

Me: Did you know there's an Internet Cat Video Film Festival in Minneapolis next week?

Boss: Some people just have too much time on their hands.

Me: I'd totally go!


And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Scream

Sometimes, when I know there is something inside me that needs to come out, but I can't put the words on paper, I imagine screaming. Loud and long and primal, the sort of scream you imagine echoing through the corridors of a Victorian Era asylum. I imagine my voice carrying through the ceiling, the roof, up into the sky, and taking with it whatever elusive emotions were living inside me just a moment ago.

It's a pretty picture but it doesn't work, of course. Whatever it was that was so desperate to get out is still there long after my imaginary voice gives out. I'm left with the same feeling pressing at my chest from the inside, its urgency still building. I'll turn back to the blank page and try to write again, but I still can't find the words.

Actually, that last part is bullshit. I can find the words, but I'm afraid to say them. I'm afraid that I'll seem angry or too emotional or overly aggressive. I'm afraid that I'll scare you away. I'm afraid that I'll show you my rawest, most vulnerable side, and you'll turn your back on me. I'm afraid that you'll judge me. I'm afraid that you'll hurt me.

And so instead, I let out a scream, wrapping myself in it like a protective cocoon. Because that half measure, which really doesn't give any comfort at all, is better than the alternative. Putting it all on paper and laying myself out for you to see who I really am and what I really feel, giving you the opportunity to judge me and turn your back on me and cut me to the core, is worse. Instead I scream to myself, silently, wishing you could hear it and everything else I'm not saying, but not daring to let you in.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's Pink!

I've needed a jolt of happiness lately. We're at the busiest part of our year at work so the stress level is high, and on top of that I've been dealing with some personal disappointments and family issues lately. I just needed a little something to cheer me up.

Enter August 1st. I subscribe to Geninne's Art Blog, not because I'm either artsy or craftsy (I'm definitely not), but because everything Geninne posts is just so. damn. pretty. My favorite posts of hers arrive on the first of each month, when she shares a free desktop calendar. The calendars are always bright and cheerful and filled with birds and flowers. This one was exactly what I needed today.

Imagine looking at that every day when you start up your computer. It makes me feel better about having to be at work already.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


I've been at a bit of a loss for things to write about lately. It's not that everything's going swimmingly in my life; more like I'm having trouble finding anything worthy of the effort. Nothing really feels interesting enough to sit down, put fingers to keyboard, and start composing reasonably intelligible sentences about it.

One of the few things that's gotten me excited in the last week or so is a new band I heard for the first time yesterday. It was serendipitous that I even got to hear them - I was running late so I was driving after 9am, which is the time I normally turn off my local public radio station because they insist on continuing to employ a DJ who talks over the music and tells long rambling stories with long stretches of dead air sprinkled in for good measure. But for whatever reason, I was running late and didn't switch the station off, and that's how I first heard The Lumineers. They're pretty much my favorite thing of the last 24 hours.

What made it all even better is that the album is on sale for super cheap right now - $4.99 on Amazon and just a few dollars more on iTunes. I bought the whole album, and the songs just feel so right for my mood right now: mellow, contemplative, sometimes upbeat and sometimes not. I still really like the single I heard on the radio, "Ho Hey," which you can hear below. But if you have the time, you should check out the live version of their song "Dead Sea," because that song is what really moves me right now.

Maybe I did find some motivation after all.

Disclaimer: If you click on either of the links to Amazon or iTunes above and purchase the album, I will receive a small commission. I was not paid to include these links, or to write this post. No one else even suggested I write this post. I'm just genuinely enjoying this band right now, and thought I'd share. If you like them and would like to throw a few cents my way (and I'm being literal there), feel free to purchase using either of those links. If not, well, I still would've written this post anyway.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So Now I'm *That* Lady

It was nearly midnight and I was lying in bed when I decided I wanted a caprese salad. This was serendipitous, as I just so happened to have all the ingredients handy - tomatoes I picked from my garden that afternoon, fresh mozzarella in the fridge, a brand new bottle of olive oil, and basil growing in a pot on the front porch.

I sliced the tomato and mozzarella, then went to pick the basil. I paused at the door to consider my attire: paint-stained tank top and underwear. I peeked through the peephole to see if anyone was roaming the streets - it seemed all clear. I cracked the door and poked my head out to get a better look - still looked good. I decided to go the lazy route and forgo pants, betting no one would drive by in the five seconds it'd take me to dart out, grab a few leaves of basil and dash back inside.

I opened the door, took half a step out, and then (why only then?!?) spotted my 21-year-old next door neighbor's car parked at my curb with its driver-side door wide open. I froze, then scrambled back into the house and slammed the door shut.

There was no basil on my caprese salad last night.

Monday, July 9, 2012

All Torn Up

It's 12:30 in the morning on a Monday and I'm still awake, even though, yes, I have to go to work in the morning.

Before I go to the office I have an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon to finally get an answer about the bum shoulder I injured during roller derby practice back in March. I had an MRI done on Friday night, and the results will be ready in less than 11 hours.

Google is my best friend and my worst enemy right now, enabling my obsessive searches for diagnoses and treatments and prognoses. Is it a rotator cuff tear? Or a tear of the glenoid labrum? Between the two I'd really prefer a labrum tear because the recovery time for that is shorter (or so says the internet). But of course no tear at all would be best, because then I wouldn't have to have surgery and could keep skating while I go through physical therapy... 

I mull over the possibilities and their associated pros and cons, finally settling on my injury of choice, as if what I want will have any effect on the outcome. The silliest part is that even without a diagnosis, I've been sabotaging my skating for months. I'm pouting over friends who've moved up and started scrimmaging before me, and even though I've assessed up now and am able to practice with them again, I'm still not showing up to practice often. It feels pointless and frustrating when I can't hit or scrimmage yet.

So here I am, hoping for a diagnosis that will allow me to skate even though I haven't really been skating for a while now, because at least then it will be my choice not to skate. And that's the real reason I'm obsessing over rotator cuff tears vs. labrum tears and SLAP lesions vs. Bankart lesions and settling on my preferences even though the universe really doesn't care which injury I'd prefer: because I'm not in control of any of this (and a lot of the rest of my life) right now, but all this obsessing and preferring lets me pretend that I can influence it in some way.

I get that a shoulder injury like this is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. It's not exactly life-threatening. Hell, it's not even bad as roller derby injuries go. But it feels Very Important to me.

I know I should let go and relax and just let the diagnosis come to me in 10 1/2 hours, which is exactly what it's going to do even if I don't let go and relax. I know that all this obsessing is only giving me the illusion of control. I know that I should concentrate on the things I can control, like doing exercises that don't aggravate my shoulder and not eating a pint of ice cream in one sitting. I know it all, I really do. 

But I would still really prefer a labrum tear over a rotator cuff tear - just in case.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Week 28 & 29 Updates

I've gone from slacking on eating right and exercising to slacking on blogging about my slacking. Fantastic.

I hit a mini-milestone two weekends ago, which which I thought would really motivate me to get back on track. That weekend I had my roller derby assessment - a test to see if I could move up from the beginner level and start hitting people and actually scrimmaging. I did a lot better than I expected on the endurance portion, especially considering I hadn't been as consistent about showing up to practice in the last couple months. Here's my progress over the last 5 months:

January: 16 laps in 5 minutes
March: 20.5 laps in 5 minutes (needed a minimum of 19 to pass the test)
June: 23.5 laps in 5 minutes!

Like I said, I thought that would motivate me to get back on track. But I'm still not going to the gym or keeping myself from binging on tortilla chips and ice cream (not together - yuck!). Even after I got my test results - I passed! - I still didn't go to the gym. I even skipped practice. It's like I'm in a rut that I just can't pull myself out of right now.

Week 28
Total weight loss: 17 lbs. (down another 1 1/2 lbs., but that was probably just a fluke)
Number of workouts: 2 (2 roller derby practices)
Number of days at or under 1600 calories: 2

Week 29
Total weight loss: hell if I know
Number of workouts: 0
Number of days at or under 1600 calories: 0

See? Rut. Downward spiral. Bad.

I think part of it is my shoulder injury. It's just not getting any better; if anything, it's hurting more. I see my physical therapist weekly and do what she tells me, but it isn't helping. I have an appointment with a sports medicine specialist, but that's not for another couple weeks. In the meantime, I find myself feeling more and more frustrated and less and less motivated.

A friend pointed out that just because my progress has slowed doesn't mean it's stopped or that I've lost all the progress I've made so far. And I know she's right. But it's still just so frustrating.

I know what I need to do: I need to do what I'm able to do. I need to go to the gym and focus on cardio and strength training that doesn't bother my shoulder. I need to go to skate practice and participate in the drills I'm able to, and opt out of the ones that are too potentially dangerous for my shoulder. I need to stop splurging all day every day and eat healthy foods. But mostly, I need to stop feeling sorry for myself, because that's the real reason I'm skipping the gym and practice and eating like crap. I'm pouting over my shoulder, and instead of making me feel better, it's making everything worse.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

You Live Inside the Mistake

A recent episode of This American Life opened with a conversation with Ryan Knighton, a Canadian writer who is also blind. The interview focused on one of Knighton's most disorienting experiences as a blind person: while staying in a hotel, he mis-imagined the layout of his room so thoroughly that despite tracing every wall repeatedly, he couldn't find his way back to the bed. He fumbled around the room until he discovered his mistake, a wall he had missed and failed to incorporate into his mental map, and eventually made it back to the bed. He described the situation incredibly succinctly: "You get a picture in your mind, and if you get it wrong you just live inside the mistake."

The last bit of that sentence struck me: " just live inside the mistake." It wasn't what Knighton meant by those words that caught my interest, but what they evoked in me. I immediately imagined what it would be like to live one's life inside a mistake: an intense feeling of stuckness, unable to navigate your way out of a situation. I reflected back on my own mistakes, and my marriage in particular. It was almost claustrophobic at the end; it felt oppressive, weighing me down and sapping my spirit. The idea of living inside that mistake for the rest of my life was almost unbearable.

Like Knighton, I groped around for a while, trying to find my bearings and reorient myself. Finally, I found what I imagined to be my escape and got a divorce. I immediately felt freer and congratulated myself on my triumph, but it was only later that I realized the truth: there is no escaping the mistake. Ever. Instead, it's always there, every day, shaping my life and informing my actions and decisions. I will live inside the mistake for the rest of my life.

What the mistake doesn't do anymore is constrain me. Like every other part of my life - all the mistakes, as well as the accomplishments and other experiences - it shapes me, but I also shape it. At first its walls felt rigid and limiting, and I bumped up against them constantly. Slowly they began to give way, and as I grew and pressed against them they took my shape more and more often. It became a give and take, and my focus shifted from living inside the mistake to truly living inside the mistake. Instead of letting it limit me, I decided to live the best life I could inside it, and I discovered a funny thing: my life inside the mistake is better than it ever was before it.

Mistakes are an inevitable part of life, and if we're lucky we avoid the truly catastrophic ones. But the idea of escaping any of the mistakes we make, big or small, is illusory. The best we can do is hope to grow into them, learn from them, and eventually, define them as much as they define us. And hopefully, when we're not looking, we'll realize that while we can never truly escape our mistakes, we wouldn't want it any other way.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Week 27 Update

Ugh. This must have been the week of backslides or something. Traveling for work, eating out, hanging out with friends - it all resulted in way less healthy eating and working out than it should have. It was - what's the word? - oh yes: sad.

Week 27
Total weight loss: God only knows - never made it to a scale this week.
Number of workouts: 1 (1 roller derby practice)
Number of days at or under 1600 calories: 1

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One Day Forward, Four Months Back

The good news: on Sunday I finally settled on a roller derby name. I'll henceforth be known as Dirty Bombe. A bombe is a type of ice cream dessert, and as anyone who knows anything knows, I fancy myself an ice cream maker. Hence, the name. Thanks to my derby buddy Mean Streak for coming up with the name.

I settled on a name the same day that I finally felt like I'd more or less completed the beginner level of my roller derby league. I decided I was ready to take the test next Sunday and try to move up to the next level, which would bring hitting and blocking and scrimmaging: real roller derby! I was pumped.

If I sound a little less pumped now, it's because of the bad news.

I fell during derby practice back in March, and it didn't hurt much, at first. But over a period of a few weeks I developed a sharp pain in my left shoulder, and in early May I finally went to see my doctor. She took an x-ray, scribbled down a diagnosis I couldn't quite read, and then referred me out to a physical therapist. I assumed physical therapy would fix whatever it was. 

I was wrong.

I had my consultation with the physical therapist yesterday. She translated the doctor's diagnosis for me: adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder. In essence, the ligaments that surround my shoulder joint and hold it all together have seized up, limiting my range of motion and causing sharp, stabbing pain whenever I try to do a bit too much. It was probably brought on by my fall in March, although doctors don't really seem to know what causes it. 

And that was just the beginning.

According to my physical therapist, they also don't know what really fixes it. Physical therapy generally revolves around pain management (most people with this condition have constant, debilitating pain, while mine only pops up when I move wrong) and improving range of motion (my range of motion is pretty good compared to most people). In short, I have a relatively mild case that physical therapy can't do much for. It should clear up on its own in about 18 months. So far, so good, right?

No. Not good at all.

Another fall on my left side could further damage my shoulder, delaying my healing time even more. Worse yet, a fall on my right side could cause the same condition in that shoulder, leaving me more or less unable to use either arm for anything more than the most basic functions. Then the physical therapist gave her "strong recommendation:" no more skating until the adhesive capsulitis heals itself.

18 months off skates. 

Which was about the time I burst into tears.

She tried to comfort me. She said that she understood that roller derby offered camaraderie, but I could still go to the scrimmages and cheer on my friends! I smiled, but it felt more like a wince. That sounded like as much fun as being told I couldn't have sex anymore, but was still more than welcome to cheer on my friends as they got just as much action as possible. It sounded awful.

She mentioned another option in passing: "manipulation under anesthesia." Essentially, they put me under, wrench my arm into all the positions that are too painful for me to tolerate now, and break up all those adhesions and scar tissue. Follow that with a week of post-op pain and a couple months of intensive physical therapy several times a week, and that might fix the problem. No guarantees, though.

I know I'm not a medical professional, but I'm seriously skeptical. Are these really the only options available to me? Do absolutely nothing and quit an activity I love for a year and a half, or get knocked out and then go through serious rehab? There's no middle ground? No cortisone shots to reduce inflammation in the joint? No taking it easy in skate practice, avoiding hitting and scrimmaging while I wait for my shoulder to heal? Nothing?

I'm frustrated, and I'm angry. This feels unfair. One bad fall and I lose a sport I've come to enjoy so much over the last few months. I've never had a physical activity I enjoyed before, and I was really excited to finally discover one. I found a whole new community I didn't know was out there, and now I feel like it's been snatched away from me. Not to be too melodramatic, but I feel a little robbed.

Anyone who knows me - really knows me - knows two things: 1) I'm tenacious as all hell, and 2) I'm the queen of Google. So I got on the interwebs and read up on the condition, and then I talked to a friend who has a fair amount of experience dealing with doctors and specialists and diagnoses. Eventually she and I wound up on the same page: go back to my primary care, ask for a referral, and get a second opinion. I want to see a doctor who specializes in sports medicine, who's used to dealing with this condition when it's brought on by traumatic injury, and more importantly, who regularly deals with patients who want to get back to activity as soon as possible. 

I made an appointment with my primary care doctor for early next week, and I'm trying not to feel too sorry for myself in the meantime. Until I'm told differently (again), I'm just going to assume that I'll find some middle ground and be able to skate and heal at the same time. In the meantime, I'm going to skate smart: no risky behavior, but no pouting in the stands, either, because I really don't want to lose everything I've gained in the last four months.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Week 26 Update

I finally feel like I'm hitting a groove again - consistently working out, eating a little better, and losing bit by bit. And on Wednesday, two women in the locker room commented that they can tell I've lost weight. I'll take it.

I also bought a summer dress this week - nothing fancy, just something light and breezy and perfect for hot summer afternoons. I couldn't decide between red and blue, so I bought one in each color. The catch: they're two different sizes. The blue one fits me perfectly now, and the red one is just a bit snug. The goal is to fit into the smaller one by mid-summer. 

Week 26
Total weight loss: 15 1/2 lbs (down another half pound)
Number of workouts: 4 (2 workouts on the elliptical, 1 roller derby practice, and 1 circuit training session)
Number of days at or under 1600 calories: 3

Monday, May 28, 2012

American in Paris, Part IV: Epilogue

A brief note: the italicized portions below were taken directly from the journal I kept during my trip and on the flight home.

I've tried to write this a dozen different ways, searching for a way to express what this trip meant to me. I keep coming back to four words: I fell in love. I realize how silly and trite that sounds, but it's really all I've got. I found a place, a routine, a complete way of being, that suited me unlike anything I've experienced before. It was entirely new to me, from the urban environment to relying on public transportation to viewing the city through a pedestrian's eyes, and yet it felt so comfortable and familiar and right. It felt like home.
"I've decided I really do love it here. The walkability and good mass transit make it easy to get the feel of each part of the city. Each neighborhood café and patisserie feels truly local and special, even if they do all sell more or less the same menu of goods. I love that within a few blocks you have your local cheese shop, butcher and pastry shop, with produce markets rotating through a few days a week. It feels like a more intimate way of living - actually interacting with the people who make and sell what you buy.
"It all seems to lend itself to a deeper experience as well. Walking everywhere forces you to move through the city more slowly, allowing you to notice more - which blocks have more bookstores, which cater to specialty foods, which are tourist meccas. And while I'd say people aren't overly friendly here, walking past people on the street at least allows for interaction. None of that is possible in a car, where you're hermetically sealed and protected from interacting with other people between destinations."

"I love the food culture here: a belief that one should be allowed to linger, savor, enjoy the nuances of the meal. No one rushes me, no one even brings the check unless I ask. I'm allowed to sit and digest, and write, and I love it."


I was a different person there.

No, that's not true.

I was a fuller version of myself there. I thrived on being immersed in such a rich, vibrant environment. I soaked it up. I reveled in it. I felt adventurous and stimulated. I was fearful and brave at the same time. I felt like I was really living life. I felt happy. Really happy.
"I have mixed feelings about returning home. On the one hand, I miss Juliette and my friends, though I haven't once been lonely here. And I'm eager to get back to roller derby and all that fun. I'm sure that if I stayed more than a few more days I'd begin to get bored and/or lonely, without a job to go to every day or friends to chat with. I wonder if all the things I find so endearing about this place - the way it lends itself to wandering, the leisurely afternoons in cafés, the lingering over a meal for hours - would fade away if I had the demands of everyday life to attend to here. It seems possible, even likely. And yet I also wonder whether I could cobble together a life here that lends itself to all those things I like. Freelancing would allow me to work from cafés, and I could make a point of seeking out new spots in various neighborhoods. Trips to neighborhood patisseries, markets, etc. would satisfy the desire for something local and walkable. That's what I speculate, anyway. I have no idea whether it would be true."
My heart tells me it would be true, that I would be happy and fulfilled there in a way I didn't know before.

"This trip was never about anyone else; it was only about me. In that sense, it was an entirely selfish endeavor, and it couldn't have been more successful. I have a clearer picture of what drives and thrills me now. I know myself better now, in a way I never could before. But I also wouldn't have been ready for this trip before. I needed the loss and heartbreak of failure, to have put myself back together again in a new way - the same pieces, but rearranged - in order to get everything I've gotten from this experience. It all had to come first for this to come now.
"It is so disgustingly Eat, Pray, Love that I could vomit. 
"We're in the air now. I'm going home.
"I'm already there."

The requisite fine print: if you click on the final link above it will take you to, where you can purchase the book. If you do purchase the book using that link, I will get a small commission for referring you to the site. I did not, however, receive any compensation for simply including the link. Disclaimer done.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Week 25 Update

I finally figured out something I like about exercising: I can eat candy at work and not throw my diet into a tailspin. Yesterday I went to circuit training at lunch and planned on eating a light dinner. Implication: I could have a Snickers bar in the afternoon and not exceed my 1600 calories for the day. Score!

Bonus: lost another 2 pounds this week. Not gonna lie, I'm pretty damn proud.

Week 25
Total weight loss: 15 lbs (down another 2 pounds!)
Number of workouts: 3 (1 workout on the elliptical, 2 30-minute circuit training sessions)
Number of days at or under 1600 calories: 4

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

American in Paris, Part III: Monuments and Museums (or, I Hate Americans)

Here's a secret: I hate Americans.

More specifically, I hate American tourists while I'm on vacation. They inevitably seem stupid and obnoxious, shouting things loudly in English instead of attempting to speak French. They wear tracksuits and jean shorts and ask what I perceive to be really, really rude questions. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Those are all things I spotted while in Paris.

Despite my aversion to Americans, there were a few traditional tourist sites I wanted to check out. I generally don't gravitate toward traditional museums because I find them sterile and dominated by art, and I don't really connect with high art very well. But there were a few things I knew I wanted to see, so I put on my game face and braved the lines.

I started at the Musée d'Orsay. It's home to a lot of amazing paintings, but I was most interested in the architecture. The museum is located in an old turn-of-the-century railway station, and I was hoping it would be cool to look at. It didn't disappoint.

That last picture is a view of what I think was Montmartre through the clock that forms one wall of the museum café. It might be my favorite photo of the entire trip.

Next stop was the Musée de l'Orangerie, which houses Monet's enormous water lilies paintings. They were absolutely stunning. You can get within one foot of them and really see how he layered the paint in thick schmears (I bet you didn't know that was the technical term). The colors were so saturated and rich. They were just gorgeous. You should go to Paris just to see those eight paintings. Really.

The next time I worked up enough courage to brave the tourist crowds, I visited the Eiffel Tower. I didn't feel like standing in lines (I hate Americans, remember?), so I didn't go to the top of the tower. But I got plenty of pretty pictures from the ground.

I spent the morning of my last full day in Paris at the Musée Rodin. I went for the same reason everyone goes - to see his sculpture "The Thinker" - but I ended up being much more interested in other works of his. "The Gates of Hell" was amazing to look at: human figures intertwining and writhing up from the surface of the doors, with a surprising level of detail for a supposedly unfinished work.

I made stops at other significant landmarks, too. The Grand Palais hosted an exhibit about animals in art that I wanted to see, and I wandered Pere Lachaise Cemetery a little, too (no, I didn't visit Jim Morrison's grave).

(I promise, that will be my last foray into photo editing.)

As I mentioned before, I didn't go to the Louvre or Versailles, and I don't regret that. I saw the significant things that interested me, spent the rest of my time wandering, and that was more than enough: it was fabulous. 

The trip changed me, but I'm still processing exactly how. Hopefully I'll wrap up with that next time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Week 24 Update

I've gone from slow progress to no progress. It's ridiculous. I've been eating out and missing workouts and even though I could make excuses for it all, the answer is, I've just been choosing to eat (and drink) badly and not exercise. Not acceptable anymore.

Week 24
Total weight loss: 13 lbs (no change at all this week)
Number of workouts: 1-ish (1 circuit training session, 1 afternoon of wandering around the trails of Tyler State Park - not strenuous, though)
Number of days at or under 1600 calories: 1 (pitiful)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

American in Paris, Part II: I Go Out Walking

I purposely left most of my time in Paris unscheduled. I prefer to wander and get to know the feel of neighborhoods, discovering little neighborhood cafes and shops along the way. Being tied down to a schedule is too much real life for my taste.

Since I never adjusted to Paris time, I often woke up at 3 or 4 a.m. By day three I decided to take advantage of my strange schedule and used the morning hours to stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens, just a couple blocks from my apartment. From my journal:
"I walked part of the Luxembourg Gardens, which were more or less empty except for the joggers and what I think was a tai chi group. I mostly just wandered the paths and took some photos: the dreary gray skies and even grayer statues contrasted beautifully with the green grass and brilliant colors of the tulips."

I especially liked one statue in particular, which (according to Google's translation of the plaque accompanying the sculpture) "represents the character of Silene (foster father of Dionysus) nude, drunk and unsteady on his ass." I'm not sure whether "ass" refers to his buttocks or the donkey in the statue. I suppose it could be both.

 I loved the jovial look on his face. That's how I imagine I look when I'm drunk too.

A few joggers ran past me as I walked, but I mostly had the garden to myself. It rained the night before, so the paths were damp and the air was still cool. Statues appeared around every corner. Some were displayed prominently in the middle of lawns, but others were tucked into corners, framed by trees and shrubs.

The quiet, early morning calm made it feel like I was the only person in the entire place.

I only made it through half the garden that first day before I decided that I absolutely had to eat breakfast - immediately. I went back to meander the second half of the garden a few days later, on a weekday. It was busier then, with people cutting through on their way to work and school, but still beautiful and relatively quiet.

I branched out of the garden and walked plenty of city streets too, poking my head into shops and stopping at cafes to read and drink a noisette (an espresso with just a tiny splash of milk). At the start of the day I'd pick a neighborhood (or a neighborhood surrounding another destination I wanted to see) and then wander it aimlessly. Even though I generally had an idea of where I was going, I liked the idea of getting just a little bit lost and discovering something new along the way. There was a feeling of adventure to it all.

The majority of the times I got lost, I managed to do it two blocks from my apartment. I'm used to city streets that are laid out on a grid, a model Paris doesn't seem to have even attempted to adopt. For whatever reason, there was a two-block area between my apartment and the Metro station that was my own personal Bermuda Triangle. I knew I was close to my apartment, and I recognized landmarks - shops, intersections, buildings - but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get back to my apartment. Every single time I wound up in that area, I had to resort to Google maps on my phone. I ended up purposely avoiding it after getting lost three separate times.

Once, when I was really, truly turned around, I must have really looked it too, because a woman finally stopped and asked me, in French, "Perdu?" I speak zero French, but thanks to The Food Network, I recognized that one word. "Pain perdu" translates to "French toast," or literally "lost bread" (since it's traditionally made with day-old, or wasted, bread). The woman was asking me if I was lost. At first I shook my head, not wanting to look like an idiot, but then I pointed at the street in front of me, which was the one I thought I was looking for, and said its name, "Rue d'Assas?" She nodded yes, and I was back on my way. Whoever said the French were rude clearly wasn't speaking to the right French people.

Despite my useless internal compass (I'd make an awful migratory bird), I found that I loved walking everywhere. Each little neighborhood felt like an independent community, with its own bakeries, butchers, and markets. Someone would pop in at the patisserie on the way home from work for a loaf of bread and chat with the woman behind the counter like they knew her. People stopped and talked in front of buildings while they waited in line or headed home for the evening. It was such a stark contrast to my own life: traveling to work every day in my little hermetically-sealed car, without interacting with anyone along the way; coming home and parking in the garage, shutting the door without talking to my neighbors; dashing in and out of the faceless, maze-like grocery store as quickly as possible, never even really learning the faces of the people who work there. In Paris, daily life felt much more intimate; you're forced to interact with other people, bumping elbows on the Metro, making eye contact on the streets, talking to the person behind the counter as you pick up the ingredients for that evening's dinner. It felt like a life that was much more connected to everyone and everything around you.

I'm certain I'm romanticizing it. Cars in Europe are small and parking is scarce; it would be a royal pain in the ass to try to lug anything home from IKEA, let alone drag it up seven flights of stairs. Relying on public transportation leaves you dependent on someone else's schedule and majorly inconvenienced by labor strikes. It takes time to go from the butcher to the bakery to the market to collect fresh ingredients for dinner every evening, and French supermarkets seemed not to have as much selection as their American counterparts.

And yet, there's still something about walking those streets every day that's so appealing to me. Being surrounded by the sounds and smells of the city, connecting with other people as you go through your routine, feeling immersed in a place that is steeped in history at the same time that it's buzzing with daily life - I loved all that.

It felt vibrant and alive, and I felt more engaged with the world around me than I have in a very, very long time.