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I had PRK vision surgery three weeks ago, and I think it’s safe to say it was a success! Throughout the process, I read LOTS of information and personal accounts about the surgery, and I believe that good preparation was key to my correct expectations and overall great experience. I’ve also gotten a lot of questions from people who are considering it for themselves. So here’s the story of how I was once (legally) blind, but now I see!

 

The Backstory

I started wearing glasses in first grade. I probably needed them earlier, but it wasn’t obvious until I couldn’t see the chalkboard. When I was fourteen, my parents finally allowed me to get contacts – at great cost to them, since at the time, the only lenses that worked with my severe astigmatism cost $100 each. No matter how careful I was, the contacts tore and needed to be replaced often. I didn’t have access to mainstream, disposable contacts until well into my 20s.

My vision life as I knew it ended in November 2013, when I got keratitis in my left eye. The experience resulted in a stack of medical bills and a permanent prohibition on full-time contacts wear. I was in glasses for four solid months, which was torture after 20 years out of them. Once healed, I figured out a compromise of wearing my glasses until lunchtime on weekdays. I got used to it, but was frustrated by how much longer it took to get ready “blind” on weekday mornings. With less contact support, my eyes also started deteriorating a little faster (I was -7.5 with a 180 axis, if that means anything to you). I also lived in constant fear of getting another eye infection and being banned from contacts entirely. LASIK or anything like it had always sounded impossible for me. I was horrified by the idea of being conscious while someone held my eye open and did stuff to it. But one blurry morning about six months ago, I thought, This is my reality for the rest of my life. This will never change, and my eyes will only continue to get worse. Maybe I’m finally annoyed enough to do something about it.

 

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The Prep

At my eye checkup in March, I asked my doctor about vision correction surgery. He immediately said I was a good candidate and recommended PRK, not LASIK. Both procedures are common and involve a laser. Here’s my quick and dirty explanation of the differences (squeamish alert):

LASIK: A flap is cut in the eye and folded back over once the laser has done its corrective work. Pros: cheaper procedure; immediate vision stability; minimal recovery time. Cons: permanently altered night vision (halos) for many; risk of corneal damage with subsequent concussions or other head injuries.

PRK: The top (epithelial) layers of the eye are essentially scraped off by a surgeon before the laser portion of the surgery. Those layers then regenerate over a few days/weeks/months, eventually resulting in a whole and functioning eye. Pros: fully intact eyes with no long-term risks or night halos; preferred surgery of most ophthalmologists, athletes, and the military; regrowing your eyeballs makes you feel like Wolverine. Cons: longer, more painful healing and recovery; vision can take up to six months to fully stabilize.

Since I’d done some research, I wasn’t surprised that my doctor thought PRK was the better choice for me. I accepted his referral to Eye Specialty Group in East Memphis and went for a consult two weeks later. A friend who’d had LASIK years ago advised me the appointment would be quick and easy. Well, I was there for four hours, saw at least as many doctors and nurses, and was given a dilation drop that effectively blinded me until the following morning. On the plus side, the staff didn’t miss a thing. My only (amused) complaint was having to sign surgery paperwork I couldn’t read for myself after the dilation drop took effect. (“I’m a contract administrator,” I told the counselor. “I’m not comfortable with this.”) I knew I’d need a week or so off from work after the surgery, and I also didn’t want to do it around any big trips or other events. So I scheduled a date three months out – the first really open space in my calendar – and the wait began.

Around the beginning of June, I started doing whatever I could to prep for a good PRK experience. Many people say vitamin C and fish oil have an especially positive effect on recovery. I’ve been on a serious daily regimen – multivitamins, fish oil, probiotics, other supplements – for years, but I added vitamin C gummies to the routine. Following instructions, I got rid of my contacts three weeks prior to surgery and started a series of eye drops the week of, as well as Gabapentin, which is some sort of nerve blocker. The Gabapentin caused what my boyfriend calls “buffering,” where it took me about ten extra seconds to process things. (I continued to take it until a few days after the surgery, and while I know it helped with pain, I felt much clearer and more alert once I was off of it.)

 

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The Procedure

On Thursday, June 23, my mom took me to the surgery center in Collierville. We checked in around 1 PM, and a nurse took me back for a final set of tests and measurements. I was starting to get nervous, but she was so kind and reassuring. As a person who constantly mixes up numbers, I’d been anxious about all my measurements going into the laser correctly, and it did me good to see how thorough the staff was. After I waited for a few more minutes with my mom, another nurse brought me into a lounge-y prep area. She gave me a Xanax, then covered my hair, put a bunch of drops in my eyes, cleaned the area around my eyes, and left me to chill out briefly. I felt a little skeptical that a Xanax would be strong enough for this procedure (I’d never taken it before), but I was mellower by the time she returned to take me into the operating room.

PRK is a very quick procedure – only about ten minutes. I lay down in a flat chair (like a dentist’s chair but more comfortable) and received another slew of numbing eye drops. A nurse handed me a small stuffed animal to hold onto, which I was unashamed to take. The doctor explained the basic steps of the surgery, asked if I was ready, then swiveled me under a light, applied the horror-movie thing that holds your eye open, and started methodically scraping my eye. This was the scariest part, but all I felt was pressure. I was never in pain or even very uncomfortable during the surgery. It was just very trippy watching this scraping happen and my vision get blurrier. There was no getting away from it. Then it was time for the laser. They warned me that it makes a lot of noise and you can kind of smell your eye burning, and that’s true, but I wasn’t even disturbed by that after the scraping. My only concern was whether I was looking at the laser adequately, since at that point everything was a giant blur and I felt like I had zero control over my eye. Hope I’m looking at the laser!! I’m doing my best!!

After 60 seconds of laser, the doctor rinsed my eye with cool water (which actually felt good, not headache-inducing as many have reported) and put on a clear “bandage contact.” Immediately, my vision was clear. I was elated, or as elated as you can be on Xanax. The doctor asked if I was ready to do the other eye, and I responded so enthusiastically I think he was a little taken aback. I officially had at least one working eye and I had survived, so the second one was a piece of cake. The nurses helped me sit up slowly (as I exclaimed that I could see them), then took me to a recovery room and went to fetch my mom. While we waited for the immediate post-op, my mom said I had really surprised her by being the first one in our family brave enough to do this, and I declared myself to be a “secret badass.” (I stand by that statement.)

The doctor and nurses came back in, checked me over, and gave us instructions. They were surprised that I wasn’t in more pain, with the numbing drops wearing off, but I only felt some irritation – nothing I hadn’t expected. On the way to my parents’ (where I would be staying for a few days), I rested in the car while my mom ran into McAlister’s to get me a tea and then into CVS for more moisturizing eye drops (which I had forgotten at home). I was pleasantly surprised by how okay I felt. I could see, and so far, so good!

Stay tuned for Part 2: The Recovery and Concluding Thoughts!

2 Comments + Posted in: changes, health, milestone

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General Highlights:

My June revolved around two events: taking a long-planned trip to San Francisco with my dad and sister, and getting PRK on June 23. Everything else was secondary. I’ve been fortunate to have enough time off work for both of these things, and I WILL post soon and more in-depth about each. Short version, I’m having a good, steady recovery with decent vision (reading and screen time are still a strain), and the trip was great.

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Reading:

The only book I completed in June was the Hamiltome, cover to cover on my flights to San Francisco. Pretty sure my last one-book month was in the early aughts, but in my defense, I was physically unable to read for a third of the month. Still, my book totals are very low this year and it’s no good. For me, not reading enough is like not getting quite enough oxygen. I can function, but not at a normal level.

 

Watching:

I’ve been rewatching a lot of Friends during my surgery recovery (seasons 8 and 9), because I can still enjoy and follow it with my eyes closed. I’m also caught up on Mindy in time for the finale next week. I don’t know how I feel about this whole Jody thing.

 

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Around Town:

The remodeled Levitt Shell is in full swing! I went to my first show of the season with Matt and some of his friends, one of whom was one of my good friends when we were all in middle school together. Life is funny.

Two weeks after my half-marathon, I did the Gibson Guitar 5K downtown. It was 94 degrees and humid at race time. I was dizzy by mile 1, gave up, and walked at least half the course, resulting in the worst 5K performance of my running career. But I’m trying to strike it from my mental record. It happens.

The Scruggs Club reconvened at the Redbirds to cheer on Wes’s favorite player, Xavier Scruggs, who now plays for a different minor league team. This time, our signs attracted the attention of his fiancee. Hilarious as usual.

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Our friend Kim and her husband were in town from Finland for one night, which happened to be the day after my surgery. I was feeling okay at the time, so my parents kindly drove me downtown to have dinner with the gang. Kim was excited at the prospect of being in What I’m Into, so ta-da!!!! (PS: She has a travel blog chronicling her amazing global adventures!)

 

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Cooking:

I was pleased with this root beer float cake that I made for a baby shower!

 

At Home:

I’m taking care of as many random home tasks as possible during my time off. My Comcast internet has been consistently terrible as long as I’ve lived here, but I thought my modem was bad or something. This month I saw a thread on Nextdoor to the effect that Comcast doesn’t have sufficient bandwidth for our neighborhood. So I had U-Verse installed this week and am THRILLED with the speed and consistency so far. Moral of the story, location really matters with internet service, so ask your neighbors.

Oh and on that note, I got new next-door neighbors in June! I used to have a rotating cast of med-student renters next door, but now a couple around my age has bought the place. I’m excited about it.

 

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Random Happiness:

I was the honored witness to Matt’s ceremonial 200th beer at the Flying Saucer. He has now earned his second plate. Plate party in July!! He also surprised me one day with this Significant Otter shirt. I knew he’d ordered a shirt for me, but assumed it was for one of his sports teams, so I was very surprised by this and laughed so hard I almost cried. I love it.

 

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

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Your Monthly Rufus:

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Posts I Loved:

♥ Abby Norman: On Finding Space for All of Me and We Are Hamiltons

♥ Cara Meredith addresses the inherent problems with the term “love on” (which has always made my skin crawl on a visceral level).

♥ Aziz Ansari in the New York Times: Why Trump Makes Me Scared for My Family

♥ Allison Fallon at Storyline: Doing the “Right Thing” May Be Keeping You Stuck

♥ Mandy Hale: Why We Cling to People Who Don’t Love Us

♥ I discovered Ask the Pilot this month via the Freakonomics podcast, and enjoyed his take on the current TSA crisis.

 

What I'm Into

4 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

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Completing my first half-marathon on May 28, 2016 was one of the proudest accomplishments of my adult life! As a runner, I’ve progressed at a ridiculously slow pace. I had zero running ability as a kid, and couldn’t even run laps in marching band without feeling suffocatey. When I was in my late 20s, I decided to attempt short sprints during my walks around the neighborhood and at the gym. That was all I did for years. It never felt good, and I decided the whole “runner’s high” thing was a myth. But for reasons I still don’t understand, I kept doing it… until, one day on the treadmill, I reached my usual stopping point and didn’t feel like I might die. So I kept going. And then I did it again and again. I was probably running a 20-minute mile, but I felt as gleeful as Dash running on water in The Incredibles. I’d put myself through seemingly pointless suffering, never expecting the situation to improve. But by persevering, I conditioned myself to do the very thing I thought I couldn’t do. I think about this lesson often.

On my birthday two years ago, I ran the Elvis 5K at Graceland. I’d walked many 5Ks previously, but I was determined to run this one without stopping. That 3.1 was a huge achievement for me at the time. I hung at that distance for about a year. When I ran the Cooper-Young 4-Miler last fall, something shifted. Suddenly I could run further and further with less effort. I decided I wanted to work up to 10K by the end of the year, and I did it on New Year’s Eve day. Then I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in February. After that went well, I figured if I could run over nine miles in freezing conditions, I was legit! So I registered for the inaugural Memphis in May Great American River Run. I could think of no better first half-marathon than a brand-new race celebrating the city I love.

To add to the excitement, my SIPster and co-adventurer Bethany decided to fly up to Memphis and join me. She’s running a half every month in 2016 and needed a May race anyway. (I know.) Her flight in on Friday was delayed five hours, so we didn’t get a ton of sleep, but we still felt pretty good on Saturday morning!

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The half-marathon route started downtown and passed most of the landmarks I wanted to show Bethany anyway. If they keep that route in the future, I recommend it as a quick and fun way to see the city! For the first few miles, the temperature was pleasant, and I was overflowing with thankfulness and goodwill. But miles 5-8ish were up the boring back side of Mud Island, with no shade or points of civic pride, and it started to get hot. Still, I never felt like I couldn’t continue. I’d memorized the list of things available at different mile markers, and I knew there would be cool towels at mile 9. I rounded the top of the Island, saw the river, felt the breeze, and claimed what turned out to be a Grizzlies growl towel. I think we were supposed to give them back, but I knew immediately that this GRIND towel was coming with me. I felt so re-invigorated, I sent Matt a selfie with the towel on my head. While running.

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Bethany had passed me at around mile 5, but I caught back up to her around mile 12. Getting to cross the finish line together was great! Alanna was waiting for us there, and the official race photographer caught her excitedly jumping out from the sidelines and running with us for a minute before deciding she probably wasn’t supposed to do that. Hilarious. (For the record, we finished in 2:49. I wasn’t shooting for a specific time, but realized early on that I could finish under a 13-minute mile, so that became my spontaneous goal and I achieved it.)

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I was extra happy that Debra, Lance, and my nieces came in from Nashville to meet me at the finish! Debra has done the Music City half twice, and gave me lots of good advice while I was training.

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Overall, I’m very happy with my first half-marathon experience, and it won’t be my last. Only a few days later, Matt and I registered for the St. Jude half-marathon in December! It’ll be my first St. Jude (and his first half), and I’m excited. I also like that it’s far enough away that I can take a little break and mix things up. For a while, I had to run so much that it was the only exercise I had time or energy for (other than yoga here and there). I’m pretty sure that’s why I’ve gained about ten pounds in two months, most of it at the end, during my most intense training. I never ate very differently than my usual, or devoured entire pizzas or stacks of pancakes – I tried to make good decisions. It feels discouraging and unfair, but I’m forcing myself to stop obsessively Googling “half marathon weight gain” and give my body time and grace to balance itself out. I have a strong body that can do awesome things like run 13.1 miles. That’s worth celebrating!

If you’re a late-bloomer runner like me, I encourage you to stay true to yourself and your own progress. Over the years people have tried to convince me to take on distances and challenges I didn’t feel ready for, and sometimes it felt really lame and/or lazy to turn down potential glory. But I’ve listened to my body and done things on my own terms, and it’s made every milestone that much better. Trust and believe in yourself. YOU CAN DO IT!

8 Comments + Posted in: empowerment, fitness, memphis, milestone

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General Highlights:

On Saturday I ran my first half-marathon, the inaugural Great American River Run! I won’t say too much right now because I’m going to post separately about it (really), but it was a good experience, I’m recovering well, and I’m willing to do it again. I never thought I could run a half, but once I decided I wanted to progress, I went from a 5K to a half in eight months. Feeling accomplished!

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May’s unofficial theme was Baseball and Brewfests. I celebrated Cinco de Mayo with free tacos at the Redbirds, followed by a Jackson Generals game the next day. The following weekend, Kelsey, Clark, Wes, and I went to Huntsville for my first Rocket City Brewfest. I had a great time and discovered a few new favorites (UFO Big Squeeze Shandy, anyone?). The Saturday after that was Taste the Rarity at Wiseacre here in town. It’s been fun, but needless to say the diet has begun.

June is going to be a big month. I’m taking a family trip to California, getting vision surgery, and starting on some other endeavors. Stay tuned.

 

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Reading:

I finally read Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, which had been on my list for a while. If you enjoy character-driven, thought-provoking sci-fi that gives you a good ride but doesn’t necessarily answer every question, you will love this. I’ve been recommending it to a lot of people.

 

Watching:

Matt and I are almost finished with Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt! (My crappy modem keeps interfering. Thanks, Comcast.) I especially love the therapy (Tina Fey!) and gentrification storylines.

 

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Music:

I’ve been to a lot of great shows at Minglewood Hall, but HAIM last week was one of the best! It made me want to start writing songs with my sister. They played some new stuff they’re currently working on – glad a new album is on the way.

I’m obsessed with Hamilton. I don’t care if that makes me basic. It’s amazing, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is truly one of the most brilliant creatives alive.

In other news, the release of a new Justin Timberlake track is always cause for rejoicing.

 

Around Town:

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My mom and I were going to run a 5K together for Mother’s Day, but it was canceled. So instead, we took a bike tour of Midtown murals. I did something like this with Alanna a couple of years ago, but it was fun to hit up old and new murals with my mom!

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Bethany was here last weekend for the half-marathon, and I really got to show her My Memphis. Alanna and I took her to Overton Square (where we had a Chad Michael Murray sighting!!), Jerry’s Sno Cones, the Memphis Made taproom, the Madison rooftop, Beale Street, and a few of our favorite restaurants. We also did the Sun Studios tour, which I had been saving for her visit. It was a great weekend.

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A big red ball visited Memphis this month. I finally caught up with it at the Brooks Museum on its last day, and also wrote a Memphis Type History piece about the New Daisy Theatre in connection with its stop there.

 

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At Home:

I’ve started working from home on Wednesdays, and it is glorious. Getting that peace and quiet in the middle of the week is great for my mental health. Rufus is happy about it, too.

My plants are all thriving beyond my hopes! I keep exclaiming about them every time I come home or go out. Perennials: they get the job done.

 

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Beauty:

These Jordana eyeshadow palettes were irresistible, and of course I had to get a few more things to meet the free shipping threshold! I’m really pleased with all of these products, especially the blush stick (in Apple Cheeks) and the liquid lipstick (which is VERY long-lasting).

 

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Random Happiness:

My older niece turned four this month. !!! GROWING UP TOO FAST. I saw her at her birthday party, then got to go to the zoo and hang out with her while she was here last weekend. She also came with my sister, BIL, and other niece to cheer me on at my race.

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Matt and I are still dating and doing great. I’m very happy. :)

 

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

Not actually from Pinterest, but from Alissa Wilkinson via Cara Strickland:

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Your Monthly Rufus:

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Posts I Loved:

♥ I’m glad I came across Perfect Number a few months ago. While I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says, I look forward to her posts and find them validating and thought-provoking. This month she tackled, among other topics, the Boundaries books and the “God has one perfect guy for you” myth.

♥ Matthew Fray: The Other Law of Attraction: Self-Worth and Gender Identity in a Mixed-Up World

♥ The Culture of Moore: Should We Stop Sharing That Newsroom Clip?

Divergent author Veronica Roth on mental illness: Anxiety, Meds, and Words from the Horizon

♥ “I’ve spent most of the past seven years since I graduated from college feeling like a failure, because I can’t afford to be that carefree with my career and my finances and just quit everything… Coming to terms with that reality made me realize just how classist and elitist that whole concept of ‘quit everything & do what you love’ is, because very few people can afford to live like that. And I began to notice that all the people who were touting this as the One True Way to Creative Success were making a hell of a lot of money off of people’s insecurity.” Mic drop, Bethany Suckrow: Creatives: Can We Please Stop Shaming Ourselves for Working Traditional Jobs?

 

What I'm Into

7 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

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General Highlights:

I’ll blame the lateness of this post on how eventful April was. April through June is THE BEST time to be in Memphis, but it’s also the busiest. On top of that, I’ve been traveling. I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, soaked up a lot of great wisdom and inspiration, and came home with a pile of books to add to the already hefty stacks around my room!

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If you follow me elsewhere, you may have wondered who this guy is. His name is Matt, and we went to middle and high school together. We didn’t really hang out back then, but he randomly chatted me up on Facebook in early March, and we’ve talked every day since. He’s a good, kind, and fun person, we have a lot in common, and I’m just enjoying being in a happy, supportive relationship! I’m still a little stunned by the whole thing (in a good way). I’ll leave it at that right now. :)

 

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Reading:

I devoured two books by FFW speakers on my flights to and from the Festival. (Both of their talks were wonderful!) Then I needed a break from deep thoughts and moved on to Heathers-meets-One Direction novel Kill the Boy Band. Despite the title, I was surprised by how dark it was.

 

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Music:

I only attended one night of Music Fest this year, to see Weezer, who had been on my bucket list for years. Rivers Cuomo was not too high to perform and the show was great! I also saw Julien Baker, Young the Giant, and Panic at the Disco.

 

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Around Town:

Even though the Grizzlies got swept by the Spurs, I was thrilled to go to both playoff home games! Alanna and I bought our Game 3 tickets as soon as they went on sale, but Kelsey surprised me with Game 4 tickets when I met her for brunch that day! It was a miracle that the Grizz made the playoffs at all due to endless injuries, and they fought hard to the end against a tough team. As one homemade growl towel said, “So proud of my team… all 28 of you.” Also, Grizz (the mascot) jumped off an extension ladder and pile-drove another mascot through a folding table, so that was awesome. MEMPHIS VS. ERRRBODY.

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Wes, Kelsey, Clark, and I went to opening day at the Redbirds. The next day, we were Twitter famous.

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April is crawfish month around here, and I enjoyed them at Rec Room one weekend and at Overton Square another. Matt took me to a great Founders beer dinner at Flying Saucer (the Mango Magnifico is amaaazing). Becky, Gwen, and I checked out and loved the latest hipster hangout, Loflin Yard. There’s a bar in an old locksmith shop and a big yard with abundant Adirondack chairs and fire pits. I’ll be spending a lot of time there this summer.

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Alanna and I ran the inaugural Grizzlies 5K!

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Food Truck Fridays have started at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens. I’m participating now before it’s too hot!

 

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At Home:

I had a couple of run-ins with my HOA in April, first for some thin wire I’d put on my gate to keep Rufus inside, and then for the clear twinkle lights on my patio (what kind of Scrooge doesn’t like twinkle lights??). I decided I’d better upgrade the fold-out chairs on my balcony, or they’d send me a letter about that too. So I got these faux wicker armchairs and cushions at Garden Ridge and am very happy with them. Now I just need more time at home to enjoy them!

My perennials are all coming back full strength and look beautiful. I also planted my essential herbs in pots: basil, mint, and rosemary. The mint has already grown about a foot since I took this picture.

 

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Cooking/Eating:

After I stayed with my friend Erin the pie queen in Grand Rapids, Matt requested a blackberry pie. This recipe was a win and will be made again (though I used Pillsbury pie crust due to time constraints).

 

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Random Happiness:

My older niece just turned four (CRAZY), and I went to Nashville for her Shrek birthday party! My BIL Lance did a wonderful job planning the party and was Head Ogre for the festivities.

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I’ve gotten serious about half-marathon training just in time – the race is only a few weeks away! After my 15K in February, I lost a lot of mojo, but I’m finally feeling strong and steady again and my mileage is good. My only complaints are #MidtownRunnerProblems – bad sidewalks, lots of obstacles, constantly trying not to get hit by a car or bus. But I usually plot my route through Overton Park for some relaxation. Anyway, I welcome tips for running a half in hot weather, because it’ll be hot by then!

Your monthly Rufus:

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Pinterest Quote of the Month:

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On The Blog:

My FFW recap was my only post here last month, but I also wrote a little piece about the New Daisy Theatre for Memphis Type History, in connection with the RedBall Project!

 

Posts I Loved:

♥ Angie at My So-Called Chaos: What Do I Even Do with A Boyfriend?

♥ Heather Caliri: Beliefs I Wish Weren’t True: Bitterness Is Poison

♥ Jayson D. Bradley: Coming to Grips with Christian Hypocrisy

♥ Kelle Hampton: A Lesson from My Eyebrows

♥ The writing life is so meta: Jody Casella: Day by Day, Good Day

♥ Not my usual scene, but I appreciated this installment of Living with Kids on Design Mom, from a recently divorced mom. Love her style, too!

A local Prince remembrance from Chris Davis in the Memphis Flyer.

 

What I'm Into

14 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

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I’ve wanted to attend the Festival of Faith & Writing since I first heard about it a decade or more ago. In 2014, I was dying to go sit at the feet of Anne Lamott and Susan E. Isaacs, but a flight from Memphis to Grand Rapids, Michigan cost almost as much as a flight to Hawaii. Thankfully, a lot can change in two years. With an improved airline situation, and Christmas money from my parents and grandfather, I registered for FFW 2016.

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However, I have never felt less qualified to attend a writing conference. After about a year of upheaval and intensity at work, my brain is fried, and even reflective writing just for close friends has ground to a halt. Though I can easily see the internal and external consequences of not writing, I can’t generate the focus or energy to get back to my old self – let alone progress as a writer. Thinking about my approach to FFW, I didn’t see the point of trying to hide or overcome my “writing depression.” I decided I would go quietly, with open hands and heart, not hustling or trying to prove myself. I was only seeking a little inspiration and mojo (and a faith boost too). By that definition, this Festival was a win. I loved every session I went to, and felt buoyed just being around so many people who love talking about books.

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Going to FFW at all was a bucket list item, but I knocked off another one: meeting one of my inspirations, Shauna Niequist (“the sensei,” as Hillary commented). I thought all morning about something meaningful to say to Shauna, but all my ideas made me tear up, and I didn’t want to be the crying weirdo at the book signing. So I stuck to my usual silent fangirling while she signed my old copy of Bittersweet. She did a Q&A earlier that afternoon, and I was encouraged by how similar our writing processes are.

Even though networking wasn’t a priority for me, I met several of my favorite bloggers and had sightings of many more. After picking up my packet first thing Thursday morning, I was wandering aimlessly through the lounge when I was seized by Tammy Perlmutter, founder of my favorite collaborative blog, The Mudroom. She recognized me from Twitter and immediately introduced me to Mudroomers whose posts I’ve been reading and linking to for years. Then she took me under her wing for the rest of the morning. She convinced me to apply to the Redbud Writers Guild and made me promise I would pitch to her by July. Tammy, you’re a wonderful human being. Thank you for seeing me!

I ran into Cara Strickland (one of the people I most hoped to see), and met Sarah from All Manner of Inspiration, who recognized me at a panel for beginning writers. We both participate in What I’m Into every month. She’s great and we ended up sitting together at Shauna Niequist’s talk.

ffw-vivant

After the first day of the Festival, I decided I didn’t want to spend my entire visit to Grand Rapids on the Calvin College campus. Happily, I had Erin! Erin and I met on LiveJournal* maybe eight years ago and have been friends ever since. She attends seminary at Calvin and invited me to stay with her and her husband while I was in town. Erin was a fantastic and generous hostess, and having her and her place as a home base made my Festival experience even better. Since we’re all into craft beer, we hit up two breweries, Founders and Vivant. Memphis’s craft beer scene is great but still young, and it was cool for me to see what we’re working toward. I knew ahead of time that Grand Rapids is one of the hipster capitals of America, so I also knew I’d feel at home there!

ffw-grandrapids

On the last day, I went to hear Sarah Bessey. At the beginning of her talk, she shared about her experience at her first Festival. Her husband had researched Christian writing conferences and sent her as an act of support and love. Sarah knew no one, heard over and over that she needed a “platform” and a “voice” to succeed, and decided by the end of the conference that she was done writing. She knew she would never be the right type of writer or person to fit into that world. As she prayed in her hotel room on the last night, she clearly sensed God saying to her, “You may never be published or known. But I called you to write, and if you write, I will meet you there.” She went home revitalized and started writing just for God and herself. Eight years later, she’s the author of two books and a polarizing and respected figure in North American Christendom. I don’t want a high-profile role like that, but I do need affirmation that God called me to write, and He will meet me there, even if no one else cares. I didn’t come home from FFW ready to take on the world, but I do have a little more spring in my step. And that’s all I wanted.

In summary: 5/5, would go again.

*= I’ve met many of my best and most lasting friends on LiveJournal. We don’t care that the rest of the internet has moved on. We like it that way. ;)

4 Comments + Posted in: the writing life, travel

mar16-happyrainbow

 

General Highlights:

Spring is here! The world is green again!

mar16-introkimmy

I painted a Kimmy Schmidt-inspired shirt for International Women’s Day (March 8) and loved the result! Since it’s green, I also wore it to a St. Patrick’s Day pub run with Breakaway. (On a related note, I bought new shoes that will carry me through my half-marathon, so it’s time to get serious about training.)

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My sister and nieces came to town during their spring break! Debra and Baby E were only here for a couple of days, so I took a day off at the last minute. We went to the Children’s Museum, had lunch, and hung out at my house (both girls love Rufus, or as Fifoo calls him, Fruit Salad). Aunthood is the best.

mar16-introfam

My brother visited for Easter weekend. We made our usual Belly Acres run as a family on Saturday. Easter dinner was elk and lobster courtesy of him and Pops. On Sunday, my mom and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which I enjoyed way more than I expected. It’s actually a great look at how real love – romantic and familial – changes throughout life.

 

mar16-books

Reading:

I loved Andrea K. Host’s indie novel And All the Stars a few years ago, so I finally picked up Stray, her first installment of a trilogy (also involving aliens). Stray has one of the slowest plot builds I have ever experienced, yet I couldn’t put it down. I’m only holding off on book two because I can’t spare that kind of time again so soon. I also finished Amy Plum’s End/Beginning duology, which is a fresh, interesting application of a lot of the usual fantasyish YA tropes.

Invention of the Year: This month I discovered Library Extension, which instantly tells you whether your library has any book you’re looking at on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. My system for marking to-reads is now obsolete and I couldn’t be gladder about it.

 

Watching:

I’m about halfway through Fuller House and enjoying it for what it is! Having read UnSweetined (not ashamed), I like that they pulled some of Stephanie’s evolution from Jodie Sweetin’s own life. She’s definitely my favorite character this go-round.

 

mar16-music

Music:

I’m surprised to be saying this, but Demi Lovato is killing it. I finally broke down and bought Confident this month, along with Sia’s This Is Acting. “Cheap Thrills” is my jam (and Sia is my Lady Gaga). I’m also obsessed with the Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify.

 

mar16-aroundtown

Around Town:

I went to Cookies on Tap, where Girl Scout cookies were expertly paired with High Cotton’s in-house brews. Meanwhile, Wiseacre put on a running and yoga event named after my favorite beer, Gotta Get Up to Get Down. I’m glad I went, but would have enjoyed it more if the wind chill hadn’t been in the 40s.

One weekend I went to Slider Inn twice in 24 hours. It really is one of my favorite places in Memphis – I was actually still excited to go the second time!

My friend Christina and her husband just moved to South Florida. We all went out on the town last weekend and surprised them with a Funfetti goodbye cake. I’m going to miss her a lot, but at least she moved to a place I already visit regularly!

mar16-aroundtownsc

I organized Supper Club this month at Bhan Thai. It was a beautiful night to be on a Midtown patio, the food was delicious, and everyone had a great time. Yay!

 

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At Home:

Here’s your glimpse of spring in Central Gardens and your monthly Rufus. This spot on the mantel is his new hangout. I guess he can see a lot of birds up there.

My Dyson Animal vacuum isn’t doing the job on my hardwood floors, so I impulse-bought a Bissell Power Edge for a fraction of the Dyson’s price, and so far I’m thrilled with it! For the first time, I can walk barefoot through the downstairs without stepping on any cat litter or tracked-in crud.

 

mar16-food

Cooking/Eating:

I’ve been craving red bell peppers constantly. ??? At least it’s a craving that leads to a lot of healthy meals!

Kelsey told me about Love Crunch granola. I got addicted and can’t go back to the cheaper stuff.

 

mar16-making

Making:

I wanted a spring wreath, but wasn’t feeling pastels or fake foliage. This design (seen on Pinterest, of course) spoke to me and was also Lent-appropriate! It took less than half an hour to make.

 

mar16-happyprk

Random Happiness:

In March I made a decision I never thought I would make: I’m getting PRK! Due to a problem with my eye a few years ago, I am permanently banned from all-the-time contacts wear. This becomes problematic when you’re thisclose to legally blind and have to remove your glasses to do your makeup, shower, etc. I decided I was finally willing to consider a scary but routine eye surgery rather than grope blindly for Q-tips for the rest of my life. After a lot of research and an intense four-hour consult last Friday, I am on the books to get new corneas in June. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about my experience. Stay tuned!

My March Madness bracket is 3/4 busted, but I’m still in the top 10 of my work bracket pool and second place in my bracket pool with Emily. Not bad considering I hardly knew anything about any of the teams this year!

 

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

mar16-quote

#YearOfLight

 

On The Blog:

I haven’t written here (or anywhere) since February’s What I’m Into. I know. It’s not okay. However, I’ll be at the Festival of Faith and Writing next month and would love to meet blogger friends. Hit me up if you’re going!

 

Posts I Loved:

♥ Abby Norman at The Mudroom: God Isn’t Asking You to Bleed Out

♥ Ruth Ogles Johnson in the Memphis Flyer: Just Say “No More” to the War on Drugs 

♥ Peggy Kelley: Peace Like a Metaphor

♥ “The roads of this world are paved with the broken hearts of triers everywhere.” Ivan Strong Moore: Moses in Zootopia

♥ Coffee Snob: My Faith in the Dark 

♥ Angie at My So-Called Chaos: Making Your Own Closure When There Isn’t Any to Be Found

♥ Unexpectedly encouraging: Life of Bon: 13 Things That May Not Be True About Having Children 

 

What I'm Into

8 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

feb16-beachrock

General Highlights:

I’ve suddenly realized it is now light before and after I go to work. The worst is over, guys. We made it! While I’ve had plenty of good times in February, I’ve been working extremely hard at work and am just trying to survive each day, and most of my nights and weekends are booked in advance. I’ve had very little time or energy for writing, reflecting, reading actual books somewhere other than an airplane, binge-watching Fuller House, or just sitting and being. I feel frayed. But here’s a rundown of all those things I’ve been doing!

 

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On February 13, I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in Nashville!  It was 19 degrees at the starting line, and I was legitimately concerned about frostbite in my toes until well into mile 2. But aside from being so cold, I felt really good and strong, and at no time doubted that I could do it. My sister and brother were waiting at the finish line, along with Kelsey, who ran the 5K portion with me. I’m glad I did this race, but I don’t think I’d do it again. It was just too cold. Since the run went well, I went ahead and registered for my first half-marathon in May! WHO EVEN AM I.

feb16-hotchoc1

This month I committed to raise $500 for Operation Broken Silence toward their upcoming documentary about the crisis in Sudan. My friend Katie from church will be traveling to Sudan as part of the filmmaking team. To learn more about the project, and the situation in Sudan, and/or make a donation (every little bit helps!), you can visit my fundraising page.

 

feb16-books

Reading:

I’ll eventually get around to real reviews, but here are the five books I read in February, most of them on a plane as aforementioned. They were all pretty great. (Luckiest Girl Alive was my least favorite, but also the one I’d most like to discuss with someone.)

 

feb16-music

Music:

I was in the front row for Sister Hazel at Minglewood Hall on Friday! I’m not a superfan, but I enjoyed the show and was impressed with their new stuff. I also liked the opening act, the Christian Lopez Band.

 

feb16-aroundtown

Around Town:

This weekend I attended Volunteer Odyssey, a fun charity event with lots of creative cocktails to try. I went with my usual group and then ran into half of Memphis Twitter and other local friends at the event. It was a great night (and also gave me a chance to pull my thrifted Norma Kamali dress out of the back of the closet)!

My friend Chasity and I went to Friends trivia (we’d both played before), where we tied for third place despite our collective encyclopedia-level Friends knowledge. Trivia is getting fierce around here.

My church held an Ash Wednesday service in partnership with a few other small churches. It was my second year to attend. I never received ashes growing up, and I find it really meaningful.

 

feb16-nashville

Travel:

When I decided to do the 15K in Nashville, it was largely because Kelsey and Wes and I already had plans to go there that weekend. We checked out some craft breweries, had lunch with my BFF from college and her husband, went to an Unknown Mortal Orchestra show, and hit up a couple of honky-tonks. It was a good time. On Sunday, I went to church and lunch with my family, all of whom were also in Nashville for the weekend (did I mention my sister and her family have moved back? :)). Fifoo was my Valentine.

feb16-myvalentine

The following weekend, I went to Miami for my distant cousin Tim’s wedding. He and Karey have been together for many years, and we were all happy to officially accept her into the family! It was the best wedding I’ve been to in a while. I also got to hang out with my mom, grandfather, and multiple cousins, and enjoy a good amount of beach time. I really needed it and was not ready to come home.

feb16-cousins

feb16-miami

Also, I registered for TSA Precheck. Over five years, I think it’ll be some of the best money I’ve ever spent!

 

feb16-fooddrink

Cooking/Eating:

I finally tried the beer sampler at Boscos on President’s Day. It was not for the faint of heart, but now I know what I like there (plus, I had help). Also, one night at Bangkok Alley, I got my sushi tempura-fried at the bartender’s suggestion. 5/5, would eat again.

 

feb16-rufus

Random Happiness:

My cat is still the best.

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My yoga class is becoming a group event. It’s fun to bring friends to the class I’ve gone to for eight years.

 

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

feb16-quote

 

On The Blog:

I hit a new low and posted here zero times in February (see above re: stress and burnout), but I did write a guest post, Tickets to the Game, for Kelsey Munger‘s self-care series. Big thanks to Kelsey for inviting me to participate alongside heavy hitters like Abby Norman and Cara Strickland – insert Wayne & Garth “I’m not worthy” gif here.

 

Posts I Loved:

I put together this list last week and untagged the posts in Feedly, and unfortunately the list has mysteriously disappeared. So this section is taking a hiatus this month. Sorry!

 

What I'm Into

4 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

brenda-tigerbasketball

A few months ago, Kelsey Munger invited me to contribute to an upcoming blog series about self-care. I took one of the last slots. After observing the posts for a few weeks, I e-mailed her and asked, “Would it be too weird if I said my self-care is basketball?” She replied, “I was actually hoping you would write about that.”

Today, you can read the result of that conversation at Kelsey’s blog: Self-Care: Tickets to the Game!

I recommend checking out some of her brave, insightful writing while you’re there, like her viral post I’m Tired of Being a Christian.

Add a Comment + Posted in: Uncategorized

jan16-sunrise

General Highlights:

Happy 2016! It’s been a slightly roller-coastery month, but it’s early enough for me to keep insisting that this will be MY YEAR.

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#seenonmyrun

Running was a major theme of my January. After running 10K for the first time on December 31, I registered for a 15K (the Hot Chocolate in Nashville next month)! Then I hurt my knee. During my week of forced rest, I figured out that I probably have an IT band problem, learned and implemented some stretches and longer-distance running tips, and ran eight miles last Saturday with no trouble. Fitness-wise, I feel stronger and more capable than I ever have in my life. As long as the 15K goes well, I’m planning to run my first half in May. Woo hoo!!

jan16-snowday

Last week I enjoyed my first Midtown snow! Even though the “storm” was much less severe than expected, most of the city (including my workplace) shut down anyway. It was the first true snow day I’ve had in a long time.

 

jan16-reading

Reading:

I tore through all ten Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy stories in one weekend (a high-maintenance task since my library’s limit is three digital books). Simon has always been my favorite Infernal Devices character, so I was happy to see him get his due. As you might expect if you know his previous story arc, these stories have a lot to say about identity, both personal and relational. Great stuff.

I also read the prequel novella to my bloggy friend Rachel McMillan’s upcoming novel, The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder. Her girl detectives are brave and likable, and I’m excited for their full debut!

 

kimmy-nofilter

Watching:

I finally got Netflix, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt surpassed my high expectations. I’m working on a Kimmy-inspired post for all of us who have emerged from a bunker and had to navigate a new world. Stay tuned.

 

Music:

This Decemberists track has been my new-year anthem.

 

jan16-aroundtown

Around Town:

I watched the Grizz beat the Pistons, had a great romp through Sheffield’s Antiques, and went to a car show. I’m also excited to see American Idiot at Playhouse on the Square this weekend!

 

jan16-furniture

At Home:

This month I got two long-needed pieces of furniture! I’d been looking for a new chest of drawers for months, and my friend Christina found the perfect one for me on a resale forum. The sellers said it’s really old, and I’ve gotten confirmation from people in the know that it looks circa 1920s. Meanwhile, my dad built this custom shelving unit to house Rufus’s litter box in my downstairs bathroom. It’s exactly what I wanted! My friends all exclaimed over it, and I told my dad he could probably take orders for more. He’s considering it for his retirement.

jan16-rufuscollage

Typical of January, I spent more time than usual at home lazing around. Rufus was pretty happy about it.

 

jan16-cookingeating

Cooking/Eating:

1. This sweetened almond/coconut milk blend changed my breakfast smoothie game forever. 2. I had my first Earnestine & Hazel’s soul burger – another item off the 100 Things to Eat in Memphis list! It was delicious (but my stomach took days to recover). 3. My pho addiction continues. One day I ate pho for lunch AND dinner, at two different places.

 

jan16-pinkdress

Wearing:

This Jessica Simpson sweater dress, which I got on eBay. I’d love to find it in more colors!

 

jan16-beauty

Beauty:

Once or twice a year, I indulge in a Makeup Revolution order. Their stuff is amazing quality for a great price – it’s the shipping that kills. These palettes have been on my wishlist for a while. BTW, they reimbursed me for the highlighter palette since one of them got broken on its transatlantic voyage.

 

jan16-hermanas

Random Happiness:

My sister, BIL, and nieces have moved back to Nashville after several years in southern Alabama. I drove up for part of MLK weekend, and am thrilled that I can now visit easily anytime!

jan16-catgame

I’m not much for phone games (I even quit Words with Friends years ago), but Neko Atsume makes me smile. It’s not action-packed – my three-year-old niece was like “But what do the cats DO??” It’s just a little dose of joy.

 

Pinterest Quote of the Month:

jan16-quote

 

On The Blog:

I wrote about my experience on Tinder, and about my One Word for 2016, Light.

 

Posts I Loved:

♥ My SIPster Bethany did a hilarious GIF story about her first, AND LAST, marathon experience.

♥ Emily Austin: We Really Should Do This More Often

♥ Mark Manson: Your Goals are Overrated

♥ Clare Bruff at Femsplain with a name story I related to: My Twice-Changed Name

♥ Elora Ramirez: Why Your Creativity is Hiding in the Shadows

♥ Heather Strong Moore: If We’re Talking Bodies

♥ My high school bandmate Willie Gillis and his wife Angela lost almost 400 pounds in two years, and they were on the Today show this month!

 

What I'm Into

2 Comments + Posted in: what i'm into

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