Meet Cute: Nemesis

I told this story on Twitter recently, and doing so in just 3 tweets reminded me how much fun it is. 

First! Definitions.

Meet Cute. The moment in a film or book (or real life) when love interests meet for the first time, usually in a cute or slightly unrealistic way. The terms can be used more broadly for any two significant characters meeting for the first time.

Examples: 

  • Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are introduced at a ball and he insults her (Pride & Prejudice)
  • Rapunzel hits Flynn Rider over the head with a frying pan, knocking him out (Tangled)
  • Jane Foster hits Thor with her van, then must take him to the hospital (Thor) 

Nemesis. They don’t necessarily hate each other, but they are rivals in all things. 

Examples: 

  • Thor and Loki (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
  • Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory (Goblet of Fire)
  • Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes)

Now, to the story of the meet cute with my first nemesis.

On my first day of kindergarten, I and the rest of my class were lined up alphabetically by first name. Directly before me was a boy named Jeremy. This line determined our seats and line order for the rest of the year (and, because our teachers were a little unimaginative, the next two years as well). Jeremy and I sat down next to each other and said hi. He seemed quiet and nice. He liked dinosaurs, but not as much as Bran, who really loved dinosaurs. I liked dinosaurs okay, but I wanted some girls to be friends with. I thought Jeremy and I would be friends. 

I soon learned that Jeremy and I made the top grades in the class. In true Ravenclaw fashion, I’d already decided that good grades would be my thing. I could not be outdone. Not long after, Jeremy broke the rules and talked during class to whisper-ask me how to spell giraffe, which to be honest I still struggle with. I hissed back that he should sound it out. And then I caught him looked at my paper, probably because it was a really confusing lesson and we were both on the wrong page.

That was it! Getting good grades, breaking the rules, and trying to cheat? Three strikes. This kid was now my nemesis.

And I kind of liked him. He had dark hair and he was nice and I liked that he was quiet too. I was painfully shy, but I didn’t feel like I was fading away or being eclipsed when I was around him. Plus, dinosaurs are pretty cool. I liked science. His favorite TV show was Kratt’s Creatures, which was my second favorite show after Wishbone. And yes, I remember how cosmically important I found this information when I learned it due to a class project in second grade. 

The one day in first grade when Jeremy and Bran invited me to play with them on the playground, a bee flew up my pants leg on the swings and stung me twice on the underside of my knee. I had to go to the office and get an ice pack while trying not to cry in front of everyone. They didn’t ask me to play with them again, and I didn’t ask. The universe had already decided: we were nemeses. No crossing of the streams.

Jeremy and I competed against each other from seats directly beside or in front of one another for two and a half years, until I transferred to another school. I went on to have many more nemeses, but Jeremy was my first. 

Fast forward to the summer after my freshman year of college when a bunch of my friends and a bunch of their friends all met up at the drive-in (yes, really) to see Toy Story 3. We’d grown up with the first two movies, so this would be great! So fun! Not heartbreaking at all.

We hung out at the concession stand and amidst everyone’s cars, seeing people we hadn’t seen all year and meeting their friends whom we didn’t know. When the movie started, we mostly ended up crowded on sleeping bags in the backs of the 2 pick-up trucks with the tailgates down. I hit it off with this one guy with dark hair. We sat next to each other, chatted, ugly cried at the end of the movie and tried to hide it—it was great. My friend kept giving me a thumbs up when his back was turned, and discretely distracted people who also wanted to talk to us.

That night after we all went home to tend out mosquito bites and cuddle our childhood toys, the guy found me on Facebook and sent me a message. When I saw his last name, my excitement was immediately replaced with stone-cold dread. I knew that name. 

“Uh oh,” he wrote, “I think we were elementary school rivals.”

It was him. Jeremy. Nemesis #1. He’d found me.

Except, there was no reason to be nemeses now.

“It’s YOU,” I messaged back. “You were my first nemesis! I thought you looked familiar.”

“Yup. We were the original Pepsi and Coke. So how have you been?”

He had a girlfriend. 

So close, universe. So close. 

Hurricane Prep

In the summers when I was growing up, my mom always kept several gallons of bottled water on the floor of the guest bathroom. During bad years, the bottles would duplicate and selections of canned food would work their way into towers alongside. Many years, I found myself on my hands and knees, reorganizing these nonperishables against the wall to make room for more. Thankfully, we almost never needed them. But every hurricane season, Mom took the extra oil for her hurricane lamp and the water in the guest bathroom seriously. Today, she’s evacuating from Dorian.

We always evacuated growing up. The Atlantic was very active in those years, and Mom always said that we were blessed to live in a beautiful place and blessed to live in a time with technology that told us when to evacuate. One season, we evacuated five times. We kept all our family photos in a single backpack and my brother and I each kept a huge box of toys in the living room, ready to be sealed and loaded up as soon as the governor gave the evacuation order. I learned to read maps on the evacuation route. I learned latitude and longitude as we tracked the latest storm locations on a family map with a green Expo marker. Our schools built hurricane days into the calendar instead of snow days. 

Because these memories were so common in my childhood, and our home always survived, many of them are fond ones. I loved putting puzzles together by the light of Mom’s oil lamp. I loved the rumble of thunder and watching the lightning flash outside as we watched a movie, all of us safe and cozy inside. I loved charting the hurricane’s new path and getting to ride up front with my mom, controlling the walkie-talkies while my brother and dad rode in the car behind.

Thankfully, we always had somewhere to evacuate to (grandparents’ house) and a mostly backroads route to get there. We didn’t have to drive for 24 hours like one classmate when evacuating from Floyd. We didn’t have to call ahead and ahead and ahead, praying for a hotel room, praying for a place that takes pets. We didn’t have to sleep in our cars outside a Walmart, where we could go in and use the bathroom 24 hours a day. We did sit in line for half an hour to fill up with gas. We did leave everything behind, wondering if we’d ever see it again. We did take refugees from Katrina and other massive storms into our schools and church and community. 

As an adult living inland, my relationship with hurricanes is different. During Irma, we lost power for 4 days, and it got cold and dark and no number of candles were as good as a lantern so I bought a lantern. I could take a hot shower, but only by candlelight. The house was so dark, the neighborhood so quiet, and I desperately missed my roommate and Tyler. I would have abandoned the house to sleep on a friend’s sofa if I hadn’t had my roommate’s dog with me. Even after the rain passed and my roommate got to come home, the nights were mostly long and miserable and the days were crowded and stressful.

In light of Hurricane Dorian’s trek through the Atlantic, I decided to pull together my hurricane stores over Labor Day. This required some digging through our many moving boxes for the supplies I’d somewhat haphazardly packed away, vastly overestimating how quickly I’d be unpacking and underestimating how soon I’d need these items.

I already had gallons of bottled water and canned food stored for us and our cat, as per my mother’s example. But I needed to find lighters, batteries, candles, our battery-operated lantern, and our phone-charging battery packs. My search was somewhat successful (the lantern remains elusive, but we bought a spare). We caught up on laundry and texted with friends who might need a place to stay. I watched the radar and checked on friends who live in places Dorian’s already devastated. We aren’t expecting any rain from this storm, but I’m still filling up with gas, going to the grocery store one more time, and checking on Mom’s progress to the place where she’ll wait until it’s safe to return home. And I’m thinking eastward thoughts toward Dorian. 

What kind of prep do you do for hurricanes? Do you have any good memories associated with hurricanes?

A Good Book on a Bad Day

I had both a very good weekend and a very tough one. Saturday was wonderful. Sunday was hard

Saturday I met a friend at B&N and spent hours shopping and chatting with her. That night, she and another friend came over and we all had pizza and hung out with Tara (the cat) during a thunderstorm and watched some baseball. Sunday, I slept poorly and felt drained. When I got up, I did so out of obligation to Tara, who doesn’t know when it’s the weekend and who I knew would be hungry. Very quickly, my beloved cat got overexcited and scratched me. I went inside for a few minutes to clean the scratch and eat something and reset my attitude, then went back out with her for over an hour. I didn’t want to. I felt so weighed down already, but it wasn’t her fault and I needed to play with her very intentionally. About an hour later, while she tried to keep me from going back inside, she hurt me again. This time I was done. I felt the house of cards in my brain collapse and I chose to collapse with it.

I changed clothes and got back in bed, where Tyler was just waking up. I started crying, and he stayed with me and talked with me, but I was done with the entire day. I stayed in bed or in our big armchair the rest of the day. I didn’t go anywhere I’d intended. I didn’t do anything I’d intended. Living inside my own head felt awful. So I wrapped up in blankets and read, and let my brain and body recover. My phone was upsetting me, so I left it in the bedroom and didn’t look at it from noon until 8:30. Any emergencies could come through Tyler. I let Tyler feed me whatever he came up with and I let him handle all the necessary chores and entertaining Tara. I didn’t avoid her, and I knew she didn’t mean to hurt me—she’s learning. I fed her both of her remaining meals and spent some time with her in the evening when I was feeling better. It was just a bad mental health day. Made even worse because the day before had been so good.

Looking back at my calendar, I see the warning signs. I haven’t had a weekend “off” like this one since June, and I spent it packing for a work trip and packing our apartment. I haven’t truly had a day at home to just stay in and rest since May. A good friend said some hurtful things that took some of the joy out of getting Tara. One of my very good friends is moving away, and Friday was her last day at work. Tyler had to go on a work trip at the beginning of the week, requiring me to single parent the kitten. I’m also living in a new house, with unpacked boxes in every room. My office and desk are still a dumping ground for misc items that don’t have a home yet. 

But let me tell you about the book I read Sunday. Evvie Drake Starts Over is about two people putting their lives back together after all their plans and hopes disintegrated. It’s so soothing, with a steady but lingering pace, and a slow burn romance set behind the main action. It was absolutely the perfect book for me to read on a cloudy mental health day, and it’s the perfect book for a cloudy day spent inside. I’ve already passed it on to a friend.

Yesterday was much better. I had lunch with some friends and someone in my life got really great news. The overcast days make me dream of fall and pies and Tyler’s and my first anniversary. I really needed a day of utter rest, and now that my brain is better, I’m glad I had it. 

3 Actions to Help the Amazon Rainforest

If you just recently learned about the massive wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, or if you’re learning about it from me right now, the situation is both dire and seemingly far away. This affects the very air we breathe and the overall temperature of the planet (trees store CO2; when they burn or die, that CO2 is released into the atmosphere). The fires were intentionally set by cattle ranchers and soy farmers. The Brazilian president accused non-governmental organizations (NGOs, charities basically) of setting the fires, then denied he said so. So what can we do about it? Here are 3 action items!

1. Learn and Share

For a wider context, this book about human-caused climate disruption includes a chapter on the forests, particularly the Amazon rainforest: The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail.

This article also includes a detailed list of action items, including organizations to which you can donate, petitions you can sign, and other products to avoid if you want to do more for the Amazon rainforest than what I’ve suggested.

Also, these wildfires have been raging for three weeks, but there’s been very little media coverage, even in Brazil, until a few days ago when the excessive smoke turned Sao Paulo as dark as night at 3:30 in the afternoon. Tell your friends and family what you’re learning.

2. Boycott Beef

This is probably the easiest and most impactful thing we can all do.

Cattle ranchers and soy farmers are the main people accused of setting the fires, and have been primarily responsible for illegally clearcutting the rainforest in the past. Soy, beef, coffee, and paper products are significant exports for Brazil, and all contribute to deforestation at the best of times, but I’m focusing on beef because it’s such a prevalent food in my diet. There are 3 main Brazilian beef companies. Look at each of their websites for lists of brands they supply. 

Just because a pet food, for example, advertises being “made in the USA” doesn’t mean they don’t source their beef from Brazil (see Redbarn Pet Products). Likewise, just because a steak house has “Texas” in the name doesn’t mean they don’t buy Brazilian beef. The same can be said about where the beef in your hamburger and on your pizza was raised. This is a boycott, not a lifelong lifestyle change, so when conditions improve, I’ll happily order a ribeye again.

It’s easy to vilify the farmers and ranchers who set the fires, but keep in mind that most are extremely poor, and are setting fires because they are desperate to support themselves and their families. Donations to organizations assisting local communities help people from getting into those desperate circumstances.

3. Write to your elected officials.

Below is my letter to my senators and congressman, which I sent on my lunch break. Feel free to adapt it for your own purposes.

In light of the escalating wildfires in Brazil, I am writing to encourage you to support the State Department in putting pressure on Brazilian beef and soy industries, which have been accused of setting the fires and have long been responsible for illegal clearcutting of the rainforest. The region is so biodiverse, and we still know so little about what lies within it. We’ve already lost countless species to these fires, and we will never get them back. We don’t even know what we’re losing because deforestation and now these fires are wiping out huge areas of life so quickly. The wildfires are now so massive that dieback may set in, causing a feedback loop of death in response to death, killing parts of the rainforest where the fires haven’t reached. This dieback would turn the “world’s lungs” into arid land, perhaps even a desert. The world’s lungs will be dead. Plants and chemicals only found in the Amazon and used for medicines prevalent throughout the Western world will be gone forever. These wildfires threaten the very air we breathe. Even without dieback, massive amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere by the dying trees, further contributing to climate instability and extreme weather across the world, including wildfires in Alaska and hurricanes in the US’s Gulf and Atlantic shores. This is not a tragedy isolated to Brazil, in cause or impact. Please respond strongly and swiftly to help mitigate the devastation. 

Summer Reading, 2019

We have a house! And a new kitten! Let’s look at the kitten.

This is Tara. She’s a rescue from Animal Welfare, and she’s precious and spunky and we adore her. 

Between her and the house and moving and travel for work and my brother’s wedding, we’ve had a busy couple of months. While packing, unpacking, cleaning, and traveling, audiobooks have grown even more important to me. They’re the main way I’ve consumed books since June, and they make my now longer commute far more enjoyable. I’ve also recently discovered Audible’s collection of original content, including one-person plays. Here are my top reads of summer/moving season:

The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption by Dahr Jamail

A former war correspondent and seasoned traveler, Dahr Jamail brings us around the world with him to witness the ways human-caused climate disruption is changing our world forever. He climbs mountains, snorkels reefs, hikes the woods outside his own home. He interviews elders in Alaskan fishing villages, the city planner of Miami Beach, Denali park rangers, and scientists all over the world, focusing on how our planet is already too warm for ice—our glaciers, ice caps, and ice flows—to survive. It’s just taking a few decades to melt. And once it does, what will our world look like? How high will the ocean be? How will the rivers and forests be affected? What coral and fish and trees will survive? This is a bleak but realistic look at the unfolding crisis, inspiring me to do all I can to engage with nature, push my elected officials for more stringent environmental protections, and visit these iced places before their ice is gone for good. 

Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic by Nick Carr (read by William Jackson Harper, aka Chidi from “The Good Place”)

After The End of Ice, I needed something lighter, and quick. I was interested in this Audible original, but when I saw the narrator, I was sold. And I’m so glad my love of Chidi led me here, because Wally Roux was delightful, exhibiting excellence in Sci-Fi, excellence in coming-of-age stories, and, of course, excellence in narration. I wanted to hand this wonderfully charming, realistically yearning book to all my coworkers, but of course it’s hard to do that with audiobooks. So if you have Audible, treat yourself to this delight, just under 4 hours long.

A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs by Ben Garrod

I loved dinosaurs as a kid. I still enjoy seeing new reports and news articles about dinosaurs and other ancient animals. So I thoroughly enjoyed the 3-hour Audible original about what we know, think we know, and get wrong about dinosaurs. (Spoiler alert: Jurassic Park lied to us.)

Other books I read and adored this summer:

Relating to Jonah

Earlier this summer, Tyler and I realized we wouldn’t be able to take a vacation this year, so we planned a weekend getaway to Atlanta instead for this past weekend.

On Saturday, after checking into our hotel, we went to a Braves game. It was really fun. We had great seats, and Tyler caught a practice ball thrown into the stands by a Marlins player. However, it was also hot as Hades. I sweated through every single thing I was wearing. I’m sure all of us in the outfield smelled heavenly. I was immensely thankful for my hat and sunglasses and sunscreen, but they could only do so much in the face of hours in that relentless, direct sunlight.

A baby at his first baseball game in the row behind us cried or fussed much of the game, and no one got upset with him. He was the voice of the people. Sing it, kid, I thought more than once, as well as, Take him home, people! He’s miserable and he doesn’t understand why. At least the rest of us chose to be there.

Twice during the 3-hour game we were blessed by the cover of a cloud that cast us all in shade. Spontaneous applause broke out in the stands around us in these moments, along with calls of “thank you” to the sky and more than one relieved, “Yes” and “Thank God.” By the time the second, larger cloud arrived, Tyler and I had already drank three bottles of water and ate two frozen lemonades between us. We enjoyed the game, but in the shade of that cloud we could focus on the game so much better, enjoy ourselves so much more, and be more generous with the people around us. 

It reminded me of the story of Jonah—not the large fish story, the plant one. After the fish situation, after Jonah went to Nineveh and preached God’s message as God has instructed, Jonah, who hated the people of Nineveh, withdrew from the city to see if God would save them from destruction or not. The people had repented in response to Jonah’s very short sermon on the matter, and Jonah was thoroughly unhappy about it. He hated the Ninevites. 

As Jonah sat in the sand waiting to see what would happen, it got hot. Miserably hot. And Jonah was miserable. A plant’s leaf opened up, giving Jonah shade and relief. He was so grateful for that leaf. And when it died overnight, Jonah was so angry and miserable again that he wanted to die all over again (4:8). God asked him if he was right to be angry about the leaf. After all, he hadn’t done anything to grow the leaf. And it’s a leaf, which Jonah knows doesn’t last. Jonah replied that he is right to be angry, thank-you-very-much. He’s even angry enough to want die (4:9).

I related to Jonah in that cloud’s shade in a way I never had before. I got his anger, his petulance. It was almost comical how much relief that one cloud brought, how used to it I became as I watched the action on the field, waiting for a homer that may or may not ever come our way. I felt affection for that cloud. I knew it’d go away eventually, but I hoped (unreasonably) that it would outlast my need to stay in my seat. It brought spontaneous expressions of gratitude from the miserable people around me, many of them half-drunk, plus that baby in his wide-brimmed hat whose his parents were trying to create a good memory. This might have been the first normal-feeling thing they’d done in months, and they worked hard with ice packs and hand-held fans and frozen treats and a cartoon to keep their baby content. 

A friend who recently visited Israel told me she better understood the Israelites’ desire to return to slavery in Egypt rather than stay in the desert. After she’d walked in a desert in that region for 45 minutes, she was ready to accept just about any terms to get out of that oppressive heat and sun. Imagining days and weeks of that, she assured me she’d be ready to return to Egypt, too. 

When the larger cloud passed on and revealed us to the sun for the final time, we still had a couple of innings to go. The sun seemed more oppressive than it had before the cloud shielded us for that hour or so. I was tired, feeling gross, and increasingly unable to concentrate on the game. All I had to do was sit there and make sure I didn’t get hit with by a ball. I just had to wait for it to be over and to try not to complain and so dampen the good experience for Tyler. He too was miserably hot, of course, but he loves baseball and this was a treat for both of us, but primarily for him. Still, I wondered if I’d make it. And in the back of my mind I knew that the bathroom was air conditioned.

Okay, God, I thought, eying the standings and trying estimate how much longer the game would last, I was judgey about Jonah before. But I get it now. I’m sorry. Jonah had a lot of problems, including being racist, but the combination of his stressful travel (the ship in the storm, then fish travel, then walking), being among people he considered his enemies, and sitting in the desert heat and sun probably tore down his walls really effectively. I knew the Georgia heat was tearing down mine.

God used the shading leaf, and specifically its absence, to show Jonah how out of proportion his angry and hatred toward the people of Nineveh was. Jonah grieved the loss of a leaf but not the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of people. He felt affinity for a leaf, as I had for the cloud, and it’s okay to be spontaneously grateful for part of God’s creation. But that affection should never overshadow (ahem) feelings of sympathy and caring for actual people. Every person, even those you consider to be enemies, are made in the image of God. And since Jonah couldn’t muster that baseline level of human compassion, God reminded Jonah that there were “also many animals” in Nineveh (4:11). Life should be valued, and how much more valuable should animals be to plants, and people to animals? God seemed to be saying, “If you can’t care about the people, can you at least care about their livestock? Think of the cows, Jonah!”

That night, after the game ended and we each took a long shower in the hotel room, we were back out to the Battery to find a restaurant for dinner. When I finally got my catfish fajitas after a long but worthwhile wait at El Felix, I felt miserable all over again. This fish had died so I could eat it, but I had stuffed myself too full of chips and queso. And because we were staying the night in a hotel, we didn’t have the means or opportunity to save the 2/3 of the delicious filet I couldn’t eat. Many hands had worked to get this incredible fish to me, but my urgency to satiate my hunger with chips and queso had resulted in waste. Waste for the life of that fish, and the work of so many people. Yes we paid money for our dinner, but those efforts and the life of this fish couldn’t be bought back. 

I thought again about God’s entreaty for Jonah to care for the animals and the 120,000 people in Nineveh who God wished to save. I’m sure I’m stretching things a bit, but it all worked together in my head that night and I have yet to shake it: Jonah with the people, the leaf, the cows; me with the people at the game, the cloud, the fish. 

3 Items to Pack for College

As I walked through Kohl’s this weekend, I found a section stuffed with back-to-school wares: colorful mirrors, fuzzy pillows, bright shower caddies. Already! I started thinking again about the two high school graduates who I wrote to earlier this summer, the journey they’ll take, and when they’ll walk aisles like these looking for things they’ll need. As I hurried toward my kitchenware destination, I thought about what purchases the summer before my freshman year of college best served me. What turned out to not just be useful, but unexpectedly vital in my college and post-college life?

I feel like I should say “pack your intellectual curiosity,” and that’s definitely important. But I’m thinking more tangibly. If you’re assembling a going-to-college kit, you likely won’t forget towels or a new shower curtain or a laundry hamper, and once you get there you’ll realize you need more spoons and an extension cord. Give it enough time, and probably wish you packed these too:

1. Flashlight 

The one on your phone will work until the power’s been out all afternoon and you need to save your phone’s battery so your alarm will get you up for class in the morning. Or until you need something to lay on the sink while you use to the window-less bathroom. The flashlight, ideally, will be tactical, with grooves and ridges around the light in case you ever need to break a window or figure out which end not to point at your face when you wake to heavy darkness in the middle of the night. During hurricane season, I’d trade my kingdom for a battery-operated camping lantern and phone charging pack. But for shorter outages, the main thing I need is a handy flashlight.

2. Screwdriver

This should at least have an interchangeable head to accommodate Philips (cross-haired) and flathead screws. It doesn’t need to be fancy (ratcheting, 11-in-1, in the shape of a crab). I’ve been the only person on my hall who could produce a screwdriver; why it was needed has slipped my mind, but I remember being widely applauded for it. I’ve also been the only person in my house for the weekend, desperately trying to stop the old-school smoke alarm from screaming. I’m all for power tools, but a basic screwdriver is lightweight, portable, and appropriate for just about any situation. 

3. Duct Tape 

This doesn’t have to be name brand or even grey. But it’s kept my bumper from falling off, kept a milk carton from leaking in my trunk, kept my trunk from leaking in the rain, and kept my bookshelves from completely collapsing. You feel like you’re prepared for anything with a roll of duct tape. And, with a little creativity, you’re prepared for more than you think you are.

Happy shopping!

We’re Moving!

I haven’t posted in a couple weeks, but thankfully it’s not because I haven’t been writing. In the past month, I’ve written about 10,000 words on two writing projects, which I’m hesitant to even talk about because I’m afraid it’ll shrivel up and die. Projects can be fragile things until they’ve grown up enough to survive opening their eyes, standing on their own legs, being seen. 

During this time, Tyler and I were also looking for a house. And just this past weekend, our offer on a house was accepted. The next month will be busy as we proceed with due diligence inspections, possible further negotiations, and packing. We wanted to start this process early so we’d have plenty of time to find out what we like and what we don’t, as well as a new home, before out apartment’s lease is up at the end of the summer. We didn’t expect to find a house we love our very first day viewing houses. We felt so immediately comfortable in every room. We love how the dining room, living room, and kitchen flow into one another. We love that, though the house is big, it feels cozy and inviting and warm. Visiting a second time not quite a week later, we were ready to offer. 

We’re learning a lot about the home buying process and are preparing our lives and budgets for this big change. Even if something happens and this particular house falls through, this is something we want to do this summer. We’ve started packing up our nonessentials. I’m stockpiling recipes and asking about Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. I’ve been researching bookshelves and rugs and decorations we currently lack, and which we’ll probably buy over time, since we currently only have enough furniture to fill a one-bedroom apartment, not a four-bedroom house. 

I’m making lists of cleaning supplies we’ll need and all the places I’ll need to call to have our address changed. I’ve downloaded a browser extension that shows me if the books I’m looking at online are available at my local library (to cut down on my book purchasing). We’ve already planned a small, weekend vacation and have agreed that that’ll be it for a while. We’re also planning to go back to a weekly game night instead of the weekly movie night (although we’ve seen some fantastic movies this summer). 

This will be my second move in less than a year and Tyler’s first in three years. It’ll be our first time moving together, and it won’t be particularly gradual. Last year, every time I went to Tyler’s apartment I brought something—a box of scarves or candles or mugs or something—to move. This time, we’ll both be moving, and will likely do so over the course of a weekend or a week. 

We’re excited. We’re busy. We’re a little overwhelmed. My writing will definitely suffer during this time. I’ll try to keep up the blog, but if I post erratically, you’ll have an idea why. Thanks for hanging in there. 

Another Katie

Sometimes I like to play a game. When I see something I really like but would not buy, be it a necklace or a wedding dress or a piece of furniture, I like to imagine the version of Katie who would buy it. After all, I do like it. With different life experiences, jobs, and relationships, I might have become a Katie who would buy it. 

For example, I saw this sofa in an Amazon ad on Insta last week. It only has one rating (and it’s one star), but I love the rainbow buttons, the smooth dark wood softening the black upholstery. I love the unique, enveloping shape. I imagine it in a number of spaces, but none of them resemble the home I currently have. I also don’t think that Tyler would go for it, both for the buttons and the black fabric and the rather thin-looking cushion.

So what sort of Katie would buy it?

She has a long entryway, rising to a sweeping curved staircase. She likes to restore old homes, and bought this one in the historic district as a 5-year renovation project. The crystal chandelier above the front door, visible in a half-moon window from the street out front, came with the house and she recently put it back up after cleaning it. The wood floors are original to the house, though she’s replaced more than a few boards. This Katie wants a fun piece where she can put on her shoes and lay her guests’ coats, while keeping the entryway from feeling too stuffy.  She likes that the buttons can pull in any accent color, so it looks fine next to the plethora of bags and coats she has hanging from the row of mildly tarnished hooks by the door. Beneath, she tucks her two favorite pairs of flats and her paint-spattered Keds.

Is there a version of you that’d buy this sofa? If so, what sort of person are they?

Dear Grad

I had the opportunity this year to write cards congratulating two recent high school graduates and wishing them well on their coming college adventures. The following is a longer version of my messages to them.

Dear Grad,

Congratulations on your graduation. I almost added “from high school” but that feels inadequate. You closed the book on at least 14 years of mandatory, highly regulated schooling, much of which was in subjects you had little interest in and under people you may not have liked or respected. And you got through it. You completed your senior year while also making plans, leaping through flaming hoops, and establishing where you’ll be next. This is the part that begins to feel like adulthood, staying on top of what you’re doing while preparing to move somewhere else. Keeping your grades up and working. Working and getting a new job. Working and moving and making new friends. Working and planning a wedding and marriage. Working and raising a new puppy. You’ll have a lot of “working and” from now on. And you handled your first season of it successfully. Congratulations.

The person you’ll grow into in college and beyond will forever be changing. Sooner or later, you’ll challenge your own ideas of who you are and what you want. You might wake up one day and know in your core that your favorite color is no longer purple, that you love Brussel sprouts, that you’re brave or capable where you didn’t think so before. You’ll find all kinds of new activities you like and you’ll leave behind many others. One of the best parts of what’s to come is all the opportunities to just try things. Try that restaurant. Try that movie. Try that hobby. Try that trip. Try that sport. Your parents and the people who have known you practically from diapers aren’t telling you “that’s not you.” Don’t you dare do it to yourself. As long as it isn’t hurting you or anyone else (that’s my adulthood-required caveat), give new things a try.

When I was in the summer you’re in, planning for my college years and making lists and hiding my fears and enjoying every home cooked meal like I was moving to Mars instead of Georgia, I loved picking out things for my new room and my new life. I had choices where I never had before, like in my color of towels. I got to pick out whatever shower curtain I wanted. I chose decorations and colors that felt full of possibilities, that could hold all the new life I’d paint on them. You’ll need a lot of practical things, like spatulas and screwdrivers and a new pair of shoes. The gift I’m including can be for those things. Or it can be for something that feels frivolous but is also life-giving, like a succulent or a bird-shaped USB or a fuzzy pillow. I hope your choice, whatever it is, will feel full of possibilities. Why not have red kitchen utensils? Why not pick a lamp that looks like Medusa’s hair? Why not try a different color bedspread? Why not get a Game of Thrones cutting board or a tape dispenser that looks like a cat? Pick something that feels like you. 

You don’t have to have everything figured out. You don’t have to be accomplished or ambitious or successful in everything. You won’t be. That’ll feel really freeing in a few years, even if it’s making you sweat right now. There’s as much or more to gain from learning who you don’t want to be, what you don’t want to do, as there is in finding something that suits you. And even if it suits you, you don’t have to stick to it. No one is going to stand over your shoulder and glare or try to guilt you about it, thank goodness. 

Who you are now would be amazed at who you’ll be in a year. But college can be really lonely at first, especially if you don’t have friends going there with you, or when your friends are making other friends faster than you seem to be. Give it 3 months. In 3 months, you’ll have people to go to dinner with and plans for your weekends.

You’ll be okay. You’re building yourself into a whole new person in a whole new world, and you’ll be fine.

Congratulations,
Katie