This is the chronological soundtrack of my 2016! The rules: no repeat artists (duets and feat.s don’t count) and the final product has to fit on a CD. You can listen to this playlist here, or to the longer unedited version here here. I make no apologies or excuses for my musical taste, and am pleased by how this year’s soundtrack came together. Fun fact: five of 20 songs directly include my One Word for the year.
1. A Beginning Song – The Decemberists
Let’s commence to coordinate our sights
Get them square to rights, get them square to rights
Condescend the calmest riot in your mind
Find yourself in time, find yourself in time
I was very into the latest Decemberists album at the end of 2015. I listened to this song on New Year’s Day and decided it was a good check-in for the start of my year.
2. Same Old Love – Selena Gomez
Where I stood romantically at the beginning of 2016: fully fed up with the BS doled out by most single dudes.
3. Stars – Demi Lovato
My favorite ironic-but-not ode to GOING OUT WITH MY CREW YO!!! It never fails to provide simple joy.
4. Cheap Thrills – Sia
The conclusion of this trio of enjoyable party-girl tunes. Sia is my current spirit animal. I am so attuned to her style that recently, while watching The Voice, I correctly recognized a song I hadn’t heard before as written (and not even originally recorded) by her.
5. Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots
We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space, but now they’re laughing in our face
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money”
Probably the best-written and most relatable pop song of the year.
6. Wait For It – Leslie Odom Jr. (from Hamilton)
I am the one thing in life I can control
I am inimitable, I am an original
I am not falling behind or running late
I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait
As everyone knows, this was my Year of Hamilton, and as everyone also knows, choosing a best or favorite Hamilton track is nearly impossible. But Wait For It consistently strikes closest to my heart and life experiences.
7. Gold – Kiiara
This first perked up my ears before a keynote session at the Festival of Faith & Writing. Lack of actual lyrics aside, it has a great vibe and is good for driving with the windows down.
8. Make Me Like You – Gwen Stefani
I was fine before I met you, I was broken but fine
I was lost and uncertain, but my heart was still mine
I was free before I met you, I was broken but free
All alone in the clear view, but now you are all I see
My feelings upon entering my first relationship in six years, appropriately written by my celebrity role model since high school, when I last knew him.
9. Be Okay – Oh Honey
Fresh cut grass, one cold beer
Thank the Lord I am here and now, here and now
Summer dress, favorite park
Bless your soul, we are here and now, here and now
A great expression of a couple of early-summer months when I was very happy.
10. Can’t Stop The Feeling – Justin Timberlake
No 2016 Memphis wedding or event was complete without the latest JT!
11. Send My Love (To Your New Lover) – Adele
We’ve gotta let go of all of our ghosts
We both know we ain’t kids no more
One of the more fun tracks from 25 later turned out to be pretty applicable.
12. Never Be Like You – Flume + Kai
I’m only human can’t you see, I made, I made a mistake
Please just look me in my face, tell me everything’s okay
‘Cause I got it, I’ll never be like you
When I realized I was starting to relate to the rather unhealthy perspective of this hit song, I knew I had to rethink my relationship. On a purely musical note, I think the glittery chime effects juxtaposed with the dubstep and dark subject matter make this song really interesting.
13. How We Love – Ingrid Michaelson
We hate the rain when it fills up our shoes
But how we love when it washes our cars
We love to love when it fills up the room
But when it leaves, oh we’re cursing the stars
I was #blessed to see Ingrid Michaelson in Kansas City in October, with my sister, soon-to-be SIL, and her best friends. Though a longtime Ingrid fan, I wasn’t super familiar with the Human Again album and heard this song for the first time live. She played it quietly on a ukelele and everyone was transfixed. I think I may have cried a little. I definitely cried a little on subsequent listens.
14. 22 (Over Soon) – Bon Iver
Where you gonna look for confirmation?
And if it’s ever gonna happen
So as I’m standing at the station
It might be over soon
Everything about this weird little tune captured my exact mood when I first heard it one downhearted Wednesday morning. One of those time-capsule musical moments.
15. Morning Comes – Delta Rae
Oh, rain don’t change the sun
Jealous is the night when the morning comes
But it always comes
Delta Rae rocked my world when I blindly went to their September show at the Levitt Shell, and I feel like this song represents the arc of my whole year… the slowly increasing hope that my long night is ending.
16. Don’t Let Me Down – The Chainsmokers feat. Daya
Running out of time, I really thought you were on my side
But now there’s nobody by my side
I can’t stand most contemporary Christian music, but I have a tendency to find God in songs that aren’t about Him at all. Right or wrong, it hit me one day that this is my current prayer and psalm. It indirectly helped to inspire my One Word for next year. I generally love Daya – “Hide Away” and “Sit Still, Look Pretty” were contenders for this list.
17. White Flag – Joseph
Noises closing in from all sides, warning all the ways to die
They say “you’d better give up, you’d better give up”
I say “I’ll never give up, I’ll never give up”
The 2016 Gryffindor Anthem. Every year needs one! (See also Johnnyswim, “Diamonds,” previously)
18. When God Closes a Door – Larkin Poe
When God closes a door, He leads you up the stairs
Leave your earthly cares on the second floor
Then God cracks a couple skulls, God cracks a couple more
His plate is full on the second floor
I heard about Larkin Poe via Jayson Bradley‘s Instagram, investigated them on Spotify, and loved this song immediately. I don’t necessarily condone all the lyrics, but this image of God as biker vigilante amuses me. Jayson is correct that these sisters ROCK. They’re like Haim meets Johnny Cash.
19. Reflecting Light – Sam Phillips
Now that I’ve worn out, I’ve worn out the world
I’m on my knees in fascination, looking through the night
And the moon’s never seen me before
But I’m reflecting light
I really enjoyed the Gilmore Girls revival, and thought this closing song was beautiful.
20. Finish Line / Drown – Chance the Rapper feat. …errrbody
All my days, I prayed and prayed, and now I see the finish line
I’m gonna finish mine.
I kept hearing Chance the Rapper described as the most joyful rapper in the game, so I added a few of his recent songs to my running playlist. This one happened to come up as I was running through the campus of St. Jude during the St. Jude half-marathon, which everyone will tell you is an emotional experience, and it seemed perfect for the moment. Watching Chance perform it on SNL last weekend confirmed to me that it’s the right song to end 2016 on. I’ve been thankful to hit some important personal milestones this year, even as others remain ahead. My brother is getting married New Year’s Day, and I’ve already told him we need to dance to this at the pre-wedding New Year’s Eve party. May we all cross our finish lines in 2017!
I’ve done the same year-end survey every year since (I think) 2001. It’s a good tradition.
1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Ran a 15K; ran a half-marathon; ran two half-marathons; ran for St. Jude; got a membership to a yoga studio; learned to play poker; attended the Festival of Faith & Writing; had surgery; regularly worked from home; regularly attended a 6 am exercise class; took a certification exam; actually saw whales on a whale-watching tour; rode a San Francisco cable car; saw 20/20 with my own eyes; joined a weekly trivia team. Among other things.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
My One Word for 2016 was Light. While I didn’t write much about it, I’ve reflected on it all year. I definitely feel lighter in every sense than I did in January. I’ll talk more about it when I share my word for 2017, which I’ve just decided on after weighing two options for several weeks.
3. Did anyone close to you have a child?
Two of my longtime closest friends, Kathy and Myla, had sons, and my SIPster Kelly had her second set of twins!
4. Did anyone close to you die?
5. What countries did you visit?
No new countries, and Kansas was my only new state.
6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked this year?
Balance. A better prayer life. A life partner.
7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
April 4: the night my ex Matt and I decided we were Dating. May 28: ran the Memphis in May half with Bethany, with many of my favorite people waiting for me at the finish. That night Bethany, Alanna, and I went to Overton Square and had a Chad Michael Murray sighting. For these reasons and others, it was the happiest day of my year. June 23: vision surgery. November 8: Election Day.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I achieved a lot this year, but passing the Certified Paralegal exam on the first try after two months of independent study was a Very Big Deal.
9. What was your biggest failure?
I don’t feel like I can call myself a writer these days. I published nothing all year, and my only blog post of significance was Why I Quit Tinder in January. Even worse, I’ve pretty much dropped the private blog I kept up for fifteen years (primarily due to access issues, not lack of interest, but still). In summary, for the first time in my adult life, I am not writing reflectively or even documenting my days anywhere. I didn’t even make it to March with The 5-Minute Journal (I was depressed at the time, and it made me more depressed to write daily goals such as “don’t cry at work”). My reading is also at an all-time low – I’m not even going to hit 50 books this year. This is all unhealthy for me and I’m anxious about whether and how I can bounce back.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing notable, and even my recovery from PRK was as easy as it could have been. I feel really fortunate health-wise.
11. What was your best purchase?
My turquoise 1920s dresser. I wanted an adult chest of drawers for years (I’m still using my childhood dresser), and my friend Christina found an amazing one for me on a resale forum. I also paid off my car and upgraded my four-year-old phone!
12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
This will sound terrible, but I’m just going to say it: ME. 2016 did its best to kick our collective ass, but I personally feel like I returned the favor. More than ever before, I believed in my own worth and strength. I took risky action to back up that belief, and consistently succeeded (though it didn’t always look like success). I refused to be mistreated or manipulated. I said no to things. I challenged myself and did things that scared me. I attempted to do all this as wisely and humbly as possible. I am faaar from perfect, but I’m very proud of my growth this year. In response to my hesitance to write this answer, a good friend said, “You carried your own light often, and that is admirable in every way and evidence of courage and healing.” So there, I’m owning it.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Someone with the initials DJT.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Tickets to events – concerts, sporting events, beer fests and classes, supper club, etc. I didn’t travel much, but I certainly did a lot close to home.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Having a boyfriend; my running progress; my brother’s engagement; passing the exam; seeing!
16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
“Cheap Thrills” by Sia. Also anything by Twenty One Pilots.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
Happier; fatter (I Can Run 13.1, but None of My Jeans Fit: The Brenda Wilkerson Story); about the same.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing, reading, cooking, beach trips.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Dealing with broken items. Crying.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
I’ll spend it here in Memphis with my parents and brother.
21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
22. What concerts did you attend this year?
Sister Hazel, HAIM, Julien Baker, Young the Giant, Weezer, Weird Al Yankovic (bucket list!), Delta Rae, Lera Lynn, NEEDTOBREATHE with Mat Kearney, Ingrid Michaelson (also bucket list!).
23. What was your favorite TV program?
This Is Us
24. Do you dislike anyone now whom you didn’t dislike this time last year?
My opinions of people are holding pretty steady.
25. What was the best book you read?
The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer.
26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The cast of Hamilton. ;)
27. What did you want and get?
Hope. Confidence. A real relationship. More men in my life in general. A new phone. A few moments of Perfect Happiness.
28. What did you want and not get?
Career progress. A longer-term relationship. A reliable, functioning vacuum cleaner.
29. What was your favorite film of this year?
I don’t think I saw even five movies in the theater this year, which is really sad. I guess Captain America: Civil War. It was awesome.
30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 37. It was a Tuesday, so I went to work, and then my parents took me and Matt to Flight (my favorite restaurant).
31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
I continued to simplify and hone in on my core style (those closest to me would sum it up in one word: cardigans). I’ve let go of having every color of the rainbow in my wardrobe, and eliminated colors I just don’t feel good in. I’ve gotten more casual overall as a result of my office allowing casual attire year-round (though I’m not completely phoning it in). Also, I now own more running and yoga clothes than I ever imagined, yet it never seems to be enough.
33. What kept you sane?
My loved ones and my cat. Also, unexpectedly, St. John’s Wort. I’ll talk more about this in What I Learned in 2016.
34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
With great difficulty, I’ll limit it to two: Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton and one of the most brilliant humans alive. Mayim Bialik, actress, neuroscientist, founder of Grok Nation, and all-around incredible person.
35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I am unable to choose just one in a year when the world was an ongoing dumpster fire.
36. Who did you miss?
My siblings and nieces, though they all live closer than they did at this time last year.
37. Who was the best new person you met?
I’ve met a LOT of great new people, but special props to my wonderful small group at church (I knew some of them before, but not well), and my friend Brandi, a new Memphian who loves the Midtown life as much as I do.
38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Whisper, move the air
Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
Sometimes it’s all I’ve got to spare
Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
Noises closing in from all sides, warning all the ways to die
They say “you’d better give up, you’d better give up”
I say “I’ll never give up, I’ll never give up”
I’ll be an army, no, you’re not gonna stop me getting through
I’ll sing a marching song and stomp through the halls louder than you
I could surrender, but I’d just be pretending
No, I’d rather be dead than live a lie
Burn the white flag!
Somehow, we all survived November. I know I’m not alone in feeling like I’ve aged a year since November 8. I haven’t written about the election because my thoughts would be irrelevant; those who share them don’t need another log on the fire, and those who don’t share them will not be moved. Like many Americans, I’m still cocooning, remaining attentive, and figuring out how best to conduct myself and defend myself and others heading into the next few years. And that’s all I want to say about that. On with the countdown.
The highlight of my November was finding out I passed the certified paralegal exam I took in September! I worry that I’m talking about it too much or seem boastful, but here’s the deal: This test was hard. Many people go to school for years before taking it. Most of the content was totally new to me. My employer wanted me to wait until 2017 to take the exam, but I wasn’t having that (don’t tell me what I can’t do!). I taught myself the material in two months with one textbook, a pile of flashcards, endless Quizzle matching games, Law & Order and How to Get Away with Murder, determination, and prayer. Passing it all on the first try is one of the proudest accomplishments of my life to date. I was sure I’d be taking at least a couple of sections again, so when I opened the envelope and saw my certificate, I was so shocked and relieved I cried for ten minutes. All my adult life, I’ve wished for irrefutable paper proof that I Am Qualified to Do a Thing, and here it is. Wherever my life is going, this certification is something I will be thankful to have.
I’ve been in the thick of training for the St. Jude half-marathon on December 3. It’ll be my first St. Jude and second half. After a rough start, I’ve felt good and gained speed and strength the last couple of weeks, but yesterday something weird happened to my hip on my final 3-mile run. It doesn’t seem serious, but I’m a little freaked out. Praying I can stretch it out and have a good race.
Rebecca Traister’s All The Single Ladies has been on my TBR list since before it came out. The first few chapters enlightened and empowered me, the middle section bogged me down with depressing statistics about the many difficulties single women face, but by the end I felt cautiously hopeful again. This is an important book for anyone interested in how and why the balance of our society is changing, and it’s even more relevant now.
My only other book this month was Clinton Kelly’s new memoir, I Hate Everyone, Except You, via Netgalley. It was a fun read and I liked hearing about his family and the many turns his career has taken.
I watched all of Pitch, a fantastic all-star sports drama about the first female pitcher in major league baseball. It is SO, SO GOOD. Ginny’s workouts and general badassery have inspired me to push harder on many a training run. Over Thanksgiving weekend, I indulged in the whole Gilmore Girls revival. I’m only a middling fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed these four episodes, and Emily Gilmore was my MVP. I mean: “It’s in an envelope labeled ‘Body Shipping Cash.'”
PS: This Is Us is still the best show on television.
My general running playlist has about 300 songs on it, but I created a shorter second one for MY JAMS. Feel free to borrow if you need tunes for a 5K or 10K.
November brings my favorite arts event of the year, New Ballet Ensemble‘s Nut Remix. It’s a reimagined Nutcracker set in Memphis and incorporating blues, jazz, and other types of dancing. This was my fifth (?) year, and I was psyched that Lil Buck was back!
The Voice of the Heart is So Hot Right Now at my church. I still haven’t read it, but one Friday night this month, we had a seminar on related topics with two counselors from Chip Dodd’s counseling firm. I always appreciate church-sponsored events focused on real spiritual and emotional health instead of, like, holiness formulas. This event happened to be the day after I found out I’d passed my paralegal exam, and my friends’ heartfelt hugs and congratulations gave me so much joy. I think it was the first time in my life I felt truly celebrated by an official group of Christian women for something unrelated to my relationship status. Christ City: We’re not perfect, but we’re still kind of rocking it.
I went to my first You Look Like a Comedy Show, where local comedians roast each other in five-minute increments. Thankfully, they only take one audience volunteer per show, and there are usually plenty of those for some reason.
In local craft beer activities, we had a Supper Club at High Cotton catered by Sushi Jimmi, and I went to a “Pre-Black Friday Black IPA” class at Wiseacre.
Tiger basketball season has begun, and after some initial misgivings after his hire, I am on board the Tubby Train. I like his relaxed vibe and the renewed energy I see in the players, and even though we’re basically playing high-school teams, 5-1 isn’t a bad start for a brand-new coach. I think it’s going to be a fun season! We also closed out football by beating top-20 Houston. I came back early from Nashville to be there and it was a great game. FYI, this is the first time all three major Memphis sports teams (Grizzlies, Tiger football, and Tiger basketball) have had new coaches at the same time.
I went to our new pedestrian bridge with Ashley, Becky, and Brandi (who wouldn’t get in the picture :)). I look forward to exploring it more on whatever warmish days we get in the coming months!
After visiting my soon-to-be SIL and her carefully curated home, I decided to take the plunge and make my second bedroom into a space I can really use and enjoy. I sold my large guest bed and bought this comfy, well-structured sofa sleeper (which the delivery men got upstairs in one try, God bless them). The rest of the updates should happen in December!
I went to Nashville twice: once for a high school band reunion that got canceled (long story), and once for Thanksgiving. On the earlier weekend, the Opryland Hotel had just put up their Christmas lights, so Debra and I went with my BIL and nieces to see them! I’m generally opposed to any Christmas before Thanksgiving, but I love the Opryland lights and knew it would be a madhouse if we waited for the appropriate time.
Your Monthly Rufus:
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
Someone tweeted this passage from the Episcopal Liturgy for Social Justice, and I still want to letter it for my inspiration wall.
On The Blog:
I participated in Hollywood Housewife’s annual One Day! I have many actual posts I want to write in December. Fingers crossed for adequate time and a non-burned-out brain.
♥ Sara Benincasa: What David S. Pumpkins Taught Me About Life
♥ Heather Caliri: You Can Be Weirdly Whole in the Worst Relationships
♥ Jody Casella: The Day Had Started Out Lovely
♥ This challenged me in the best way: Yeah Charleston: Safety pins, symbolism, and why I was like “naw, Son”.
♥ Felicia Horowitz: An Unlikely Meeting of Hope
♥ From our local paper, a Geoff Calkins piece about a great former Tiger: Will Coleman trades dunking for doughnuts
Every November, Hollywood Housewife hosts a linkup called One Day, in which everyone posts the minutiae of their regular day that normally go undocumented. I’ve learned that these are the kinds of things you look back on and see how much in your life has changed (or not). While One Day is meant to happen on Instagram throughout the day, I prefer to post it all here as a photoessay!
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
5:30 am: On Wednesdays I get up an hour earlier than usual to go to 6 am yoga. I’m not a morning person in any sense of the word, but I’ve been attending this early class for a few months because I can (more on that shortly), and I’m getting used to it. Last week I felt too lethargic to go and regretted that decision all day. Anyway, I didn’t remember it was One Day until I’d been up for a few minutes, hence the later timestamp.
5:50 am: Brush teeth and head to yoga in my beloved Marc Gasol matador shirt, available here. Note the car temperature of 68 degrees, before 6 am, on November 2. Most years, I’m taking out my winter clothes around this time. This year, I haven’t even worn a jacket yet.
6-7:15 am: It’s a good class, even though my legs are so visibly tight from running that the teacher is concerned and brings me a block. I end up talking to her for a few minutes after class. She decides we should have a free recovery class the day after the St. Jude marathon/half for all the runners. Woo!
7:20 am: Get home, start the coffee, complete quickest shower/hair/makeup job yet.
My primping area/inspiration wall is one of my favorite spots in my house. I wanted a vanity all my life and never had one until I moved here. I actually bought this desk the day after I moved, from a guy who sells handmade furniture on Craigslist from behind his house on North McLean. It felt like the Midtowniest thing ever on my first full day as a Midtowner, and I still smile when I think about it.
My go-tos: Real Techniques brushes and Makeup Revolution eyeshadow palettes. So glad I can get some MR products at Ulta now instead of placing an annual order to England.
8:00 am: Since May, I’ve been working from home one day a week on Wednesdays. My VP offered us the option, and it is the best. Having my day in the middle of the week is also great because I’m never in the office for more than two days in a row. I actually get a lot done with no one distracting me, and the overall impact on my emotional/mental health has been huge. I don’t have a home office space, so I work here at my dining table.
Every other morning of the week, my breakfast consists of a package of Bel Vita biscuits eaten in the car, but on Wednesdays I can have a real breakfast and coffee in a real mug! It’s amazing how such a small thing can make you feel more like a human being. I usually have two poached eggs and some sort of fruit, which I eat while checking the overnight e-mails.
9:30 am: The St. Jude corral list is out, and this is probably where I should be. This will be my second half-marathon, and training isn’t going as well as it did the first time. I’ve been struggling to convince myself that I should be proud of myself just for doing this (again) and it doesn’t matter how slow I am. Sigh. Also: typical convo with the BFF, today about the new furniture I’m having delivered later. (Spoiler alert: I tipped them well, because they totally earned it.)
10:00 am: The best thing about working from home is a whole day of togetherness with Rufus. However, he likes to jump onto and around the keyboard, and it’s probably a matter of time before he accidentally sends an e-mail and I’ll have to tell someone, “Please excuse that e-mail from my cat.”
10:30 am: I pinned this narwhal glass a year ago, and finally bought it last weekend, when I was at Anthropologie trying to find a dress for my brother’s wedding. It’s pretty small, but I’m going to use it for some iced tea anyway!
I’m the type who needs a physical planner I can write in, and I don’t trust my memory of my schedule unless the planner is in front of me. I’ve been using this Filofax for a couple of years and still love it. I make it more exciting with Project life cards. The little shell notebook is for grocery and to-do lists. (Spoiler alert: I forgot to take it with me when I went to the store later.)
12:00 pm: My new sleeper sofa is here! I’m on a quest to make my second bedroom into a room I can actually use and enjoy. Last week I sold the queen bed that used to be in there, and this is Step 2. I wasn’t sure it would fit up my narrow staircase and through the narrow door, but the delivery men assessed the situation and got it upstairs on the first try. Excited!!
12:45 pm: Today is the grand opening of my neighborhood Kroger that has been in process and under construction for at least two years. It is a huge deal. I was going to wait a few days to go, but Kelsey texted me to exclaim about it, and I do need a couple of things. So I take a quick break to check it out. It’s very tidy and has lots of cool amenities!
1:30 pm: On the way home, I hear this song for the first time. I’m not a huge Bon Iver fan, but something about it really resonates with me in this moment.
Back to work while finally eating some lunch. I grabbed a cup of broccoli cheese soup from the brand-new salad bar area.
2:15 pm: It rains lightly for about five minutes (drops barely visible on the patio planter). We’re in a drought, so this is worth noting. Between the overcastness and this Ingrid Michaelson song, I feel really melancholy for a few minutes. For various reasons, I’ve been pretty down this past week or so. Life.
3:30 pm: Because I need to appear in my own day, here’s what I’m wearing. Usually I do get presentable and wear actual clothes when I work from home, because you never know what a day will bring. This shirt is distressed in the back and I like it a lot.
5:10 pm: It’s a pretty evening now, and here’s the extent of our fall color so far, from my patio.
6:20 pm: Domestic tasks. I hang the clean shirts to dry; I don’t put my tops in the dryer. (Yes, there are five gray shirts there. So what?) I also have time to make a pot of one of my favorite soups and eat some before small group.
7:30 pm: Last summer, I joined a prayer class through my church. When the class was over, some of us stayed on and evolved into a “story group” (our current term for small groups; I’m sure it’ll be something else next year). We meet weekly and take turns hosting, and tonight is my turn. I made pumpkin pie dip. It’s a hit!
My lifetime track record with small groups isn’t great, but I can honestly say this group is one of the best things in my life right now. We’re “age and stage” diverse, and every one of us has Been Through It in one way or another. It’s the church island of misfit toys I’ve looked for all my adult life. We talk about last week’s sermon, some things I’m dealing with (because Dianne notices that I look upset), and crazy things that have happened to other members of the group. At the end, they kindly pray for me and then we turn on Game 7 of the World Series. We’re all rooting for the Cubs. Meanwhile, Rufus goes from lap to lap and chair to chair being adored.
11:00 pm: Bedtime routine. The mascara tube is a combo of castor oil and almond oil for healthier eyelashes. I’m constantly looking for eyelash helps, since they’re still getting flattened by my sleep mask.
The last friends have gone home, but I’m sticking with this game till the end because I refuse to miss history!! To stay alert, I replace some earring hooks. I recently found a pack of non-allergenic hooks on Amazon, and am systematically switching them out on all the fake earrings that hurt my ears. Yay for budget-friendly solutions!
11:45 pm: CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! I’ve never been super into MLB in general, but I know many devout, lifelong Cubs fans, and I’m incredibly happy for them. They earned this! (Sorry, Indians, I would have rooted for you under any other circumstances.)
12:03 am: Okay, it’s technically tomorrow. But this is where my day concludes. Good night!
Hi. I really miss writing, but, you know. Life.
So far, I’m struggling to get ready for my second half-marathon. I didn’t run much over the summer because I couldn’t handle the heat, and, well, the heat is still around. I never expected this to be a factor in training for St. Jude, which is December 3. I’m doing my best to power through and not beat myself up about how slow I am. Hopefully it’ll cool off for the race and I’ll feel like I can fly.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed has been on my list for months, and it’s more relevant than ever. This book examines the lives of people who have been destroyed by one mistake or stupid comment, and how our society arrived at its current merciless state. Very important read. I also finally read Sweetbitter, one of the current It Novels. While I felt removed from the characters, it’s beautifully written and I wanted to discuss it with someone as soon as I finished it.
I’m obsessed with David S. Pumpkins. ANY QUESTIONS?!?
Banks finally released a new album!!! I’ve also been enjoying some Delta Rae after seeing them at the Shell last month. I have a lot of Daya songs on my running playlist, and “Don’t Let Me Down” has become my unexpected pop prayer of 2016.
Luke’s Diner came to City & State! While I’m not rabid about Gilmore Girls, I was still excited to go with my mom. I watched the PBS Hamilton documentary at Rec Room with other passionate Hamilfans. My friend Wes had his plate party at Flying Saucer (200 beers!). I ran a 5K at Shelby Farms for Operation Broken Silence, one of the charities I support. It was my first visit to Shelby Farms since its renovation, and the park looks amazing.
Other social events: I checked out River Arts Fest for the first time. I went to a mini-high school reunion and talked to some people I hadn’t seen in forever. I’m suddenly reconnecting with a lot of people from high school this year!
In Midtown, October means Cooper-Young Beerfest, and this was another great one! My favorite new source was Exit 6 Brewery out of St. Charles, Missouri.
Two new friends I’ve been hanging out with in October: Vada, who’s in my small group at church, and Brandi, who recently moved here from Montana. We went to South Main Trolley Night together last week and all loved the LeMonster exhibit at Memphis College of Art!
When I moved a year and a half ago, I had to combine my previously separate guest room and office/craft room. There’s no consistency to the space and I hardly spend any time in there. This month I suddenly remembered I can change things to make it a room I can actually use and enjoy. I really don’t have guests often enough to justify keeping a queen bed that dominates the room, so I sold the bed and bought a nice sofa sleeper, which will be delivered this week. I’m still picking out a new desk, bookcases (IKEA is coming soon!), and a new paint color. Hashtag excitement!
I forgot to mention last month that my brother got engaged!! Kevin and Stefanie have been on and off for eight years, and I’m thrilled to have her in the family. I truly feel like I’m gaining a sister. They’re getting married New Year’s Day. My mom, Debra, and I went to Kansas City this month for Stefanie’s bridal shower. We spent quality time with Stef’s family and friends, hung out at her beautiful house, checked out some of the hot spots, AND saw Ingrid Michaelson, who has been on my concert bucket list for years! I knew it would be a great show, but it surpassed my high expectations. I’d never been to KC before, but I really like it and am looking forward to future trips back.
In a fit of retail therapy last weekend, I bought some Madden Girl over-the-knee boots. I’ve wanted over-the-knee boots for two years. If anything, I needed black tall boots, but I don’t think I’ll regret these!
Since my old phone was needing to recharge three times a day, I finally upgraded to an iPhone 6s! (Headphones are important to me, so I’ll avoid the no-jack phones as long as I can.) I’m pretty enamored with it. My only complaint was that it wasn’t connecting to the Bluetooth in my car, but I found a fix after extensive Googling.
I’ve been meaning to share the Gospel of the JavaSok for a while. I got tired of my drinks condensing all over the place at work, and figured if there are koozies for coffee and beer, there must be one for your standard plastic cup. Eight bucks on Amazon. Game changer!
Non-materialistic happiness: in Tiger football news, the Tigers completed their first kickoff return for a touchdown since 1996, when we beat UT and Peyton Manning. I was there when the 20-year streak was broken. It was awesome, and I’m especially thankful for that moment since we’re now on a three-game losing streak.
Your Monthly Rufus:
In a distressing/amusing development, Rufus learned how to jump the patio fence this month. He now has to be supervised very closely outside… but if he lets me put his harness and leash on him, I can take him for walks, and maybe eventually to the park or something! Now that he’s conquered the fence, he’s generally climbing higher than ever.
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
♥ I loathed Kesha back in her early dollar-sign days, but this piece by Taffy Brodesser-Akner in the New York Times gave me new respect and sympathy for her. Kesha, Interrupted
♥ Alison Gary: ’90s Fashion: The Great Equalizer
♥ Anna Smith: I’m Not Busy. Do I Still Exist?
♥ Jonalyn Fincher: New Smartphone Habits for Election Season
♥ This piece by Elana Rabinowitz at Solo-ish hit me in the gut: ‘You’re beautiful,’ he said. I didn’t believe him.
♥ Nelle Smith: A Blessing for Having Reached This Point
♥ “I’ve come a long, long way, and I’m only able to learn from the healthy advice in Boundaries in Dating because I now believe things that my old, evangelical, on-fire-for-God self would see as completely blasphemous.” Perfect Number concludes her readalong of one of the Boundaries books, and as usual, there’s a lot to chew on.
♥ Smile of the month: Lori Shandle-Fox at Grok Nation: Meeting My Straight Mr. Right at a Gay Soiree
I just got home from a weeklong, multi-city trip, so this post is late, but I couldn’t let last month go undocumented. As is the case with most Septembers of my life, A LOT happened.
In mid-September, I took the CLA/CP exam to become a certified paralegal. After throwing paralegal law at myself for two months via any means I could find, I took all five sections of the test over the course of two days. Whatever sections I don’t pass, I can re-take indefinitely, starting next January. The first-time pass rate is only 40%, but for various reasons, I felt very driven to hit a home run on the first try. I worked really hard, did the best I could, and am proud of myself for that. We’ll find out in November if it was enough.
It’s Tiger football season! Our group kept our existing season ticket seats, which have been upgraded to actual stadium seats instead of benches. Woo! We were 3-0 in September, making our new coach the first in Tiger history to hit that milestone in his debut season! But we lost to Ole Miss last weekend. I don’t want to talk about it.
Serious/sad news: Matt and I broke up over Labor Day weekend. It was amicable and we’re on good terms – I’m thankful for that. I’m doing okay, though I still have low moments.
My September book count was decent due to a minor binge at month end, but I felt meh about most of my choices. I really enjoyed Hannah Brencher’s If You Find This Letter and the Young House Love book, Lovable Livable Home (I allowed myself a few pages of fun, soothing interiors in between study sessions). I’d heard a lot of hype about Boy21; it was a tough read in some ways, but I give it props for its uniqueness and rawness. I was excited to check out Sarah Vowell’s biography of America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman, but struggled through it for some reason.
Parenthood heir apparent This Is Us is the first show I’ve fallen in love with in a long time. I’m also excited about Designated Survivor and Pitch, though I haven’t seen the latter yet. Well done, networks!
Kelsey and I went to NEEDTOBREATHE’s Tour de Compadres, with Mat Kearney. It was my fourth NTB show and the closest I’d ever been to the stage! In September I also saw Delta Rae at the Shell (they blew me away) and Sheryl Crow at Live at the Garden. We were way in the back, but she played all the hits and it was still great.
No one lacks for things to do in Memphis in the fall and spring! My favorite fall event is Cooper-Young Festival, or as local media calls it, Midtown Christmas. I ran the CY 4-Miler on the Friday night, despite 95-degree temperatures and taking four sections of an exam earlier the same day. (This gives me a little hope for my second half-marathon training, which I haven’t started yet.) Saturday was the actual fest, and Alanna and I wandered around for several hours. We ran into friends, bought jewelry, discovered cool new makers (Crybaby Girl Gang!!), and basked in the Midtown-ness.
Alanna and I also went to BreakFest, a brunch festival that started (and sold out) last year. This year’s event was smaller and HOT, but we won some Grizzlies tickets while eating delicious breakfast foods.
My mom and I attended a Tour of Homes in my historic neighborhood – we wanted to go last year, but were out of town. One of the homes had original works by Chagall and Dali. I got heart palpitations just standing next to them.
My friend Gwen moved to Chicago for a new job. We had a goodbye dinner for her at the Majestic, which was the first place she ate when she moved to Memphis!
This magnetic organizer is bringing me joy. I used to keep my often-used kitchen utensils in a vase, but having them over the sink keeps them in closer reach and makes the countertop less cluttery. I wish I’d gotten this a year ago.
Last week I went to Miami for the best work conference I’ve ever been to! I had fun with my co-workers and met other legal peeps from around the world. We had dinner and dancing at the beach and stayed at a fairly swanky hotel in Brickell. Our last night was a Miami Vice party, which ended up a full-blown 80s party. One team dressed up like a flock of Richard Simmonses, and, at one point in the evening, swept me off my feet. Expect to see this on the Christmas card.
I flew in a little early to spend some time with my grandparents and nearby uncle and cousins. It was a good visit! On Monday night, my grandfather was keen to watch the presidential debate. I told him if he wanted me to get through that, I was going to need a drink. So he broke out the Chardonnay for me. Good times.
As a huge Makeup Revolution fan, I was intrigued by their New-trals vs. Neutrals palette at Ulta. It looked like a potential semi-dupe for the Too Faced Sweet Peach palette I’d been eyeing. Well, dupe or not, it’s fantastic! I used it almost exclusively in September and am not bored with it yet.
I chose my garden plants to attract bees and butterflies, so it’s been exciting to see lots of both in August and September. One day I was eating lunch on my patio and noticed two unusual creatures in the plants. They looked like bees but flew like hummingbirds. This was the best picture I could get. After extensive Googling, I found out they’re a type of hummingbird moth (a snowberry clearwing). SO COOL. The next week, I thought I saw them again, so I went outside and a pair of actual hummingbirds swooped down, flew right around my head for a few seconds, then flew away. It was amazing. My friend Sara and I are both currently into sensing God’s presence in nature, so I told her about it right away and we were extra excited.
Your Monthly Rufus:
We celebrated his first Gotcha Day on September 16! I’m so glad I have him.
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
Posts I Loved:
Similar themes this month. Sorry-not-sorry?
♥ Stacy London at Refinery29: How I Moved On From My “What Not to Wear” Style
♥ Matt Fray: The Magic of Boundaries: Date Well, Marry the Right Person, and Love Hard Forever (I thought about this one for days.)
♥ My friend Becca: On Fear-Based Silence
♥ Mandy Stadt at The Cut: “I’m remarried, so why does my divorce still feel like a failure?”
Another birthday month has come and gone. I celebrated 37 at Loflin Yard a few days in advance, in a co-birthday party with Alanna and a lot of great friends. On my actual birthday, my parents took Matt and me to Flight, my favorite restaurant!
The current focus of my life is the CLA/CP exam to become a certified paralegal. I’ve been classified as a paralegal at work for a year and a half and decided I might as well be a licensed one. I’m taking the exam in mid-September, i.e. attempting to teach myself in two months what many people go to school for months or years to learn. So I know it’ll be understandable if I don’t pass all five sections on the first try, but I’m trying for a sweep. In any case, I wasn’t willing to wait until January (the next test period) to do the only thing I can really do for my career right now. I naturally test well and there’s no reason not to give it a shot. Even if I fail a couple of sections, it’ll be progress. I’m hoping to share tips and some of my experience after the fact.
I won Glennon Melton’s new memoir, Love Warrior, on Goodreads and read the entire thing under a tree in Overton Park one Sunday afternoon. With this book, Glennon claimed her permanent place on my panel of personal gurus. I connect with her and her message on a level I don’t have words for.
I’m still not sure how I feel about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I enjoyed it, but it felt… unreal, in the context of the wizarding world we know. Maybe I’ll like it more and/or sort out my thoughts on subsequent readings.
I finally checked out the first volume of the latest Shadowhunters trilogy, and I think its themes are the most interesting and complex yet! I also love the increasing overlap between old (some really old) and new characters.
With so many words in my head from studying, Netflix has been more appealing this month. Matt convinced me to start Parks & Rec at last, and I started How to Get Away with Murder because it’s set in law school and might help me. It’s not my usual type of show, but I’m loving it. I also watched The Big Short last week and think it should be required viewing for everyone. Preferably before the election. Seriously.
Like everyone else, I spent most of August watching the Olympics. It’s a biennial sobfest for me. I’ve always felt attached to Michael Phelps, I think because he reminds me a lot of my brother, and am so glad he had a great last Olympic experience.
I signed up for Sling TV so I could watch all the Olympic channels, then found out the basic package I chose didn’t include them. I think I’ll hold onto it for at least another month, though, since it comes with two ESPNs and football is about to start. I got rid of cable several years ago and only miss the sports.
The Shipping Room podcast (about all kinds of fictional couples) has become my personal runner-up to Best of Friends Podcast. I also enjoy the occasional Hamilcast!
Gwen and I went to Crosstown Arts for Fish, an immersive experience with light and digital images projected onto line paintings of fish and other marine stuff. It was a refreshing activity on a hot summer afternoon.
My church held another Civil Pour event at Loflin Yard, inviting people to come discourse politely about our current political climate. I showed up to honor this bravery, though I didn’t say anything, and everyone did remain civil. It’s possible!
In honor of Elvis’s Death Week, the Flying Saucer made an elf Elvis pint glass. My birthday has been overshadowed by Elvis’s death day all my life, so I had to have it.
A big group of us went to Choose 901 slash Grit & Grind night at the Redbirds. #MemphisUnited
A few months ago I splurged on a perfect pair of leopard-print flats on Poshmark. Unfortunately, the previous owner had stretched them out so badly, they wouldn’t stay on for one step, despite multiple attempts to shrink or pad them. This month I finally caved and spent as much again on a brand-new pair from the Steve Madden website. Moral of the story: never buy shoes with no return policy, even if it’s a brand I know.
Matt and I went to Land Between the Lakes for a weekend. I’d been once with my parents two years ago, but that was a Jetski-focused trip. We did a couple of short hikes and checked out the nature center, elk and bison range (twice!), and planetarium. One year from our visit, LBL will be directly in the path of a solar eclipse, and the planetarium staff are very excited! Due to rain, we never got to swim, so I still don’t know where the good public beaches are. But it’s a very pretty area with lots of animals!
Over the summer I participated in a prayer class through my church, and a few of us are continuing on in a “story group” (one of the new types of groups my church launched this month). Being involved in this diverse group, getting to know these people and learning about prayer in a new and liberating way, has already had a noticeable positive impact on my life. I feel a sense of security and connection that I didn’t have just a couple of months ago. The plan is for us to start serving on the prayer team too, which is crazy to me, since a stalled prayer life is what drove me to the class in the first place. (One of the many things I’d love to write about here if I had time.) I’m thankful and a little excited.
Your Monthly Rufus:
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
Posts I Loved:
♥ Abernathy Bland, making me cry as usual, wrote a beautiful reflection on the life and death of her Aunt Sissy.
♥ Mark Manson: Is It Just Me, Or Is the World Going Crazy?
♥ Abby Norman on the Final Five: Patriarchy and Performance
♥ Heather Caliri: Do You Wish You Could Change Your Story?
♥ Mayim Bialik on O.J.: Made in America (when is this coming to streaming?).
♥ Amy at The Messy Middle: Holding the Long View in Mind
♥ C. Jane Kendrick’s desert adventure with her three young daughters made me smile.
July 2016: 95 degrees outside, 65 degrees inside. Daily thunderstorms, political conventions, unrest all over the world, and Pokemon everywhere you look.
The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I used to throw a big party every year, but these days I’d rather just enjoy it without the work and stress. Matt and I went to a party at Wes’s apartment and then a bunch of us went to the Redbirds game. Instead of my usual flag cake, I branched out into a no-bake cheesecake (I say it counts as flag-ish since it had artfully arranged berries on top).
My friends Carol and Taylor got married. It was a good time with the whole friend group!
After hearing lots of advance praise around the blogosphere, I pre-ordered Bromleigh McClenaghan’s Good Christian Sex and found it encouraging and refreshing. Christian culture desperately needs a more nuanced, realistic discussion about this topic, and I’m thankful to Bromleigh for starting it.
I also read another installment of Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series, and made a special library run for the final 5th Wave book, The Last Star.
Stranger Things on Netflix hooked me right from the trailer. I’m not much of a binge-watcher, but at only eight episodes, this show is a reasonable time commitment and very enjoyable. It’s like if Stephen King wrote Super 8.
My mom and I spontaneously decided to see Weird Al Yankovic on his Mandatory Fun Tour! I’ve loved Weird Al since I was a kid, but had never been to one of his shows. He played for over two hours and changed costumes so many times I lost count. The expected Kurt Cobain impression and Star Wars finale were great, but my favorite part was during “Wanna B Ur Lovr” when he came out into the audience in a flame-printed suit and hit on a bunch of ladies. HILARIOUS.
A few months ago I raised some money for Operation Broken Silence, a local organization of filmmakers raising awareness about the war in Sudan. Last weekend was their annual fundraiser, Good People Good Beer. Ashley went with me and we had a great time!
I also went to a beer class at Wiseacre, focusing on their newest beer, Lord Skylark. It’s a pale ale with Earl Grey tea and I liked it a lot!
I’ve been spending a lot of time at Loflin Yard, which is basically a big backyard downtown with live music, hula hoops for anyone’s use, and amazing food and drinks. It’s especially great on a Sunday evening. Once I rode my bike there!
The college dorm I lived in for three happy years is being torn down. I went over to pay my last respects, assuming they were going to implode it. Apparently it’s too close to other buildings for a safe implosion, so they’re taking it down very slowly with one wrecking ball. It’s a terrible slow death for my former home. I only hope they’re saving some bricks for alumni!
I’ve been loving this Shea Moisture water mint shampoo for a while now. It feels especially amazing after sweating in the heat. When I ran out of conditioner this month, I decided to try one of the new Garnier Whole Blends conditioners. This coconut oil kind has made my hair a lot sleeker without weighing it down, and it’s cheaper than anything else I’ve used recently. Thumbs up!
Matt recently earned a plate at Flying Saucer, which meant a party and dramatic unveiling of the plate! It was a fun night. You have to drink 200 different beers to get there, so we’ll be having my plate party in about five years.
As a longtime ambassador of McAlister’s tea, I couldn’t miss Free Tea Day. My mom went to two different locations and snagged this shirt for me!
It’s so hot, I can’t run more than a mile outside anymore without feeling sick. It really started to mess with my head, which is NO GOOD in running. I decided trying to force it was doing more harm than good, and I should focus on something else for a while. A great yoga studio near my house ran a special over Fourth of July weekend, and I splurged on a three-month membership! I’ve been going to at least two classes a week and already feel stronger. Enhanced tone and flexibility will only help me when I start training again in the fall. I think it’s helping my mental health too.
My all-time favorite former Tiger, D.J. Stephens, was signed to the Grizzlies last week after three years of busting it overseas and in D-leagues! I’ve been waiting for this since he graduated, and was so happy I started dancing (silently) in my cubicle and texting people in all caps. He’s earned this and I really hope he gets a good shot.
Your Monthly Rufus:
Pinterest Quote of the Month:
On The Blog:
I wrote extensively about my PRK eye surgery – the prep and surgery, and the recovery. If anyone is considering PRK and has more questions, let me know! I read A LOT of personal accounts when preparing for the surgery and want to pass that on. I have officially measured 20/20 one month out, so I’m thrilled with my results.
Posts I Loved:
Some months I struggle to find enough posts for this category, but I deeply relate to and/or salute every one of these!
♥ Melanie Dale at The Mudroom: Your Marriage Doesn’t Have to Look Like Anyone Else’s.
♥ Ask Polly: Am I Too Needy to Love?
♥ Samantha Field: What Does It Take to Be a Christian?
♥ Tina Muir: Being an Athlete vs. Being a Skinny Girl Who Runs. I’m not sure how I came across Tina Muir, but I appreciate her so much!
♥ Katie Elizabeth Hawkes: You Don’t Know Your Story Yet
♥ Suzanne Falter: 10 Sure Signs of Growth
♥ Allison Arnone: You’ve Changed
♥ And, not applicable to me in any way, but purely enjoyable: Design Mom: A Perfect Day in Paris with Kids
In the three months between my consult and my surgery, I read every PRK blog post I could find. Most stories were positive; a few were angry and regretful. These perspectives helped me go into PRK with correct expectations. I knew there was no way to predict my outcome, even a best-case scenario would involve some pain and frustration, and it could be months before my vision was consistently clear. Also, due to the severity of my astigmatism, there was a slight chance the surgery wouldn’t work and I’d need a re-do in six months (this was covered in my package). I believe knowing exactly what I was getting into made my experience easier, since all physical challenges are a mental game to some degree.
I stayed with my parents for the first few days following PRK. They were willing to take care of me, and I didn’t think being alone immediately was a good idea. After my surgery (which was in the early afternoon on a Thursday), I slept for a couple of hours as recommended, then stayed up until a normal bedtime. My light sensitivity was off the charts – I had to wear sunglasses in the house and could still see perfectly without turning any lights on – but other than that, I felt fine! I didn’t feel pain, just some irritation. (I’ll come back to this later.)
On Friday morning, my mom took me to my post-op appointment. My vision was 20/25 in one eye and 20/30 in the other, after less than 24 hours! After that, I relaxed around the house and took a long afternoon nap. My vision seemed pretty clear, and my eyes only felt tired. I was even able to go to dinner with friends (wearing a hat and sunglasses). On the way back to their house, I told my parents how pleasantly surprised I was, and how lucky I felt. I knew the third day was the worst for a lot of people, but everything was going so well, I thought I might be home free. Spoiler alert: Not so much!
When I woke up on Saturday, I could tell this wouldn’t be another easy day. My eyes felt really bad, and drops didn’t help. After a few hours lying on the couch in increasing pain, I decided it might help to get out and distract myself. So, against her better judgment, my mom agreed to take me to the Bath & Body Works annual sale. It was a venture straight out of Allie Brosh. Within two minutes of entering B&BW, it became nearly impossible to focus my eyes on anything. I felt my way around the sale displays, grasping at lotions and body washes. To get to the register, I had to stumble through the visual minefield in the middle of the store – bright spotlights pointed at very shiny candle lids. Somehow I paid for my stuff, but bumped into a few other shoppers trying to find my mother. She quickly checked out and led me out into the mall… where I noticed that New York & Company was having an 80% off sale. Moments earlier I’d been wondering how I was going to get to the car, but now I was like “Wait! Let me see if I can regroup.” But I was already on a downward spiral. After a few minutes’ pause, I couldn’t even get my eyes open to put drops in them for relief. By the time we got back to the house, my mom had to physically lead me to bed. The pain was a solid 8/10 – it felt like needles stabbing my eyes. The knowledge that it was just my nerves reconnecting and my eye tissue regrowing did not help AT ALL.
Missing my own bed and my cat, I still wanted to go home as originally planned for that day. My mom reminded me that I had some hydrocodone, but I didn’t want to be so out of it that I couldn’t leave. (I also stubbornly did not want to let the pain beat me.) So, after a nap, my boyfriend came to take me home. I powered through the dinner my parents had cooked, but once Matt put me in the car, I was pretty incoherent. The moment I was settled at home, I took the hydrocodone and went to bed, where I slept blissfully for twelve hours. When I woke up Sunday morning, the pain was gone, never to return! I had a pain hangover all day, though, and my vision was terrible. My doctor had explained that the vision fluctuations happen because brand-new eye tissue is “bumpy.” It felt like I’d regrown my whole eyes in one day, so at least the loss of my vision progress made sense.
I planned for a week off from work, and needed it. I couldn’t drive or do much, so I mostly relaxed at home, doing small chores and “watching” a lot of Friends, since I can enjoy it without seeing every minute. On Wednesday, almost a week after the surgery, my mom took me to another follow-up. The doctor removed my bandage contacts and cleared me to drive. As I’d expected from my research, my vision took another hit once the contacts came out. They’re not corrective, but they protect the new tissue, and the eye gets used to them. Even so, I was relieved to be free of them.
I worked half a day from home on Thursday and Friday, my face inches from the computer screen. By noon on both days, my eyes were exhausted and I was very ready to hang it up. Thankfully, Fourth of July weekend would give me some extra time to heal and rest, and it proved to be the turning point. On Saturday night, July 2, Matt and I went out with some of his friends. I realized on the way to dinner that my vision was so good, and my eyes felt so normal, I hadn’t thought about them in several hours. On the Fourth, for the first time, I was able to read a magazine without strain. Happy Independence Day to me!
Since that weekend, my vision has been stable and good. At my one-month follow-up on July 20, I was confirmed 20/20 and discharged from my surgeon. My vision won’t be officially “set” for about six months, but I have no complaints about what I’ve got!
Notes and Observations
♦ Most people who’ve had PRK say the post-surgery irritation feels like sand or dust in your eye. That’s a fair take, but I’d describe it as like a contact lens went in badly, or had something on it. None of the write-ups I read mentioned the psychological toll this takes when all your life, that feeling has meant danger to your eye (keratitis feels similar). It took me a few days to understand why I had a constant sense of low-grade panic. Even then, I didn’t get over the alarm until the bandage contacts came out and I could be sure that any weird feeling in my eye was not caused by a harmful foreign object. If you’re considering PRK and have a history of difficult eyes like I do, be aware.
♦ My new vision is crisper than it ever was with glasses or contacts. My astigmatism was so bad, I figure I never had a contact lens that sat exactly like it was supposed to. Colors are also more vivid. I thought I must be imagining that, but I talked to a friend who had PRK 20 years ago, and she had the same experience. I think it has something to do with the new shape of the eye refracting light differently?
♦ My eyes are definitely shaped differently now. When I pat my eyelids, I can tell they’re less bulgy. My eyes never fully closed before PRK, and I’ve been sleeping in a sleep mask for three years to prevent problems. But as far as I can tell, my eyes close all the way now! I’m still using the sleep mask most of the time as a precaution, but can probably quit it eventually. Also: over the years, I’ve amassed a collection of high-end, guaranteed-no-pinch eyelash curlers. Every one of them pinched me… but now they don’t! Between that and no more tight sleep mask flattening them, I’m on my way to killer eyelashes. Vain, but exciting.
♦ I haven’t had the severe eye dryness many patients experience. I use preservative-free moisturizing drops several times a day, but don’t always feel like I need them. However, I’m sensitive to the cold, dry air in my office building. It hit me like a brick wall on my first day back at work and is still bothering me. I feel fine everywhere else. I’m happy with my choice to get PRK in summer – the heat and humidity probably helped, even with the extra bright light to deal with those first few days.
♦ My halos have been limited to a slight glow around bright lights, sort of a smudge if I’m looking directly at the light. It’s barely noticeable and should go away over time. Honestly, I think I had a halo-like issue before, because this seems like an improvement.
♦ Don’t underestimate the impact of overall health on your PRK experience. I decided to have the surgery now partly because I’m in a healthy and strong moment of my life. I think that contributed to my positive outcome. I also cannot recommend vitamins and supplements strongly enough: minimum, a daily multivitamin, fish oil, and vitamin C. I took extra vitamin C gummies every day for a month on the advice of a friend who had cataract surgery. It speeds healing. I’m also a big believer in probiotics – I take refrigerated capsules, but if yogurt or kefir or whatever is preferable to you, knock yourself out.
I’m only a month out from PRK, so nothing is set in stone yet. I’m also aware that I’ll probably still need reading glasses as my eyes age. But as of now, getting PRK is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s truly miraculous that after a lifetime of half-blindness, I can lay under a laser for two minutes and get up with functioning eyeballs. I was prepared for a worst-case scenario, but got a best-case instead, and I feel incredibly thankful and lucky. Yay for sight!
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!
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.
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.)
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!