Monthly Archives: January 2012

Big things shouldn’t be easy.

But I guess sometimes they are.  This is a little disconcerting to me, though…

I’ve heard people say that marriage/relationships should be easy– it’s just about falling in love and that should be simple, right?  I’ve never believed this way.  I don’t think it should be hard to BE married.  But it does take work to set that up– there are so many conversations to have and decisions to make.  That’s work.  But the work is worth it.

School.  Mostly not easy.  Time consuming in the least.  Tests.  Papers.  All nighters.

But what about when big things ARE easy?

I find that disconcerting.

My last grad school application– looks kinda easy.  Ok, it’s the last one.  I have practice.  And most of my materials are prepared.  But I still think this may make it the scariest one yet.

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Vagina Season

Spotlight Monologue

It’s that time of year again!  When I transferred schools in the Spring of 2008, I was excited about and uncertain of what I’d find when I went to see The Vagina Monologues for the first time.  What I found was a whirlwind of emotion– with one monologue making me laugh til my eyes teared, and the next making me out and out feel like crying.  With little exception, the show was a touching tribute and celebration of women everywhere.

When I left the show, however, the most permeating thought I had was– those girls are BRAVE.  And I’d love to work backstage.

The next year, I saw a flyer up for an Auditon/Info session.  I went.  And before I knew it, I was cast.  I became one of those brave girls.  And I fell in love with this production.  This year will be my fourth year celebrating women and fighting to stop violence against them.

Rehearsals start exactly two weeks from tonight– and I can’t wait to see what our little vagina community will be like this year.

The Vagina Workshop
Wear and Say It Lists

Until The
Violence Stops.

({*})

For more information about The Vagina Monologues, and the
V-Day Movement, check out Vday.org.

[and shoutout to Sio who shares the first pic with me!]

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Rites of Passage and the Ones that Matter

So as this day comes to a close, and I am hours past my normal posting time, I am thinking about today.

Today I got the chance to grab coffee with an old friend.  She is one of my closest friends, one of my sisters, although we only see each other a handful of times during the year.  I had the feeling that something we talked about would be my post tonight.

M and I bond over our womanhood, our budding careers (which are truly in the buds still, waiting to bloom– her in law school, me pursusing my PhD).  We talk about family, school, relationships.

Two things that surfaced tonight, however, made me feel strong.

First, we talked about our mutual friends– we are a little group of 5 or 6 girls.  We are all doing things and going places.  Some of us are spending our early 20s advancing our education, others are flourishing in their personal lives– growing blossoming families or laying the foundation for such beauty.  We talk about this quite a bit.

I think I’ve written about this before– my little group– we run the span of being single to dating around to having a boyfriend to being engaged to married-with-second-baby-on-the-way.  While I hope that eventually we all find that “special someone” who we want to spend our life with, there is something beautiful about the fact that we are all so different at this moment– all in a different place and transition in our lives.  Our path diverged when we graduated almost 8 years ago, but we have stayed friends and supported each other through every phase.  There is something strong and beautiful about that for me– this amazing little community of women I’ve come to consider sisters.

And then there’s M– who for one reason or another had a falling out with one of our other girls shortly after graduation.  She told me tonight that she felt that things had healed between her and the other girl.  She said that the warm feelings she had, and the time they had been friends, outweighed whatever time they’d spent in disagreement.  And she said it was seeing the other girl with her new fiance that really changed things.  It was a reminder that we’re all doing big things– and taking big steps– and M said she couldn’t imagine not being a part of that.  I can’t help but agree.  We’re at that age when rites of passage are coming up fast and furious.  The people you want around for those moments– and the people whose moments you’d like to be included in– are the ones who matter.  Fix things with those people when they’re broken.  And the others– well– the rest aren’t worth worrying about.

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Hey grad school, what are you doing Friday night?

I’m working on applying to grad schools right now.  I did this last year, cluelessly, and made the fatal error of applying to programs that didn’t quite fit my goals.  This year, I’m correcting my mistake.  I’ve found programs I’m terribly excited about, which will prepare me well for my chosen path.  I’m writing a separate, individualized personal statement for each school, geared toward the program and professors I want to work with.  I’m emailing professors I like, asking to hear more about their work and often getting recent papers sent back to me.  I’m taking the time to read the papers, too…

Writing up a grad school application feels a lot like dating to me– we put our best foot forward and hope for the best.  We spend a lot of time trying to look polished– and fearing rejection.

And application-due date season feels a bit like what speed dating must be like.  You get x amount of time with each school– to learn from their website what they want you to hear, and to tell them as much as you want them to know about you.  Then decide if you want to know them better.

I flirt: uploading the transcript, the writing sample, the GRE scores.  I hope I’m just their type.

I bat my eyelashes, twirl my hair– and hit send.

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Inside the nutty world of food allergies

I was planning to write something a bit more uplifting today after having a serious post just the other day, but I wanted to share a little bit in light of the latest food allergy fatality.  I read about it first on The Nut-Free Mom, one of my favorite allergy blogs.

Food allergies are not a joke.  They are not a game, or an excuse people use because they don’t like a food.  They’re not a ploy for attention.  People die from food allergies.  Amarria Johnson was only 7 years old.  This is why we need a cure– and a ton more awareness.

I’m fairly certain that most fatalities occur because a person has eaten the food they’re allergic to.  But here’s a dirty little food allergy secret: Food allergies are not just about eating.

I have topical food allergies– so I’ll react to touching a food (or the table, the computer keyboard, or your hand– that’s just touched an allergenic food).  A few Christmases ago, a topical reaction to peanuts almost sent me to the ER; the itching was over my entire body and cleaning off where it may have touched did not help.  It was about a full hour until Benadryl took effect, at which point we were praying and getting ready to leave for the hospital.

Some people can react to airborne particles of a food.

The top 8 get a lot of attention (peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, soy, eggs, shellfish, fish).  But these aren’t the only dangerous food allergies out there! These are just the most common. Mustard, sesame, corn, and sulfites are also topping the charts.  My mother and I both get itchy throats from strawberries.  My little niece’s eczema (an itchy, dry skin condition) acts up when she eats beef or certain meats because she’s allergic.

In addition to reading food ingredient labels, I read labels on makeup, lotions, soaps, and shampoos.  There’s often fruit and nut extracts hiding here.  If you have a liquid soap in your bathroom, I’m probably reading the label before I use it.  And if I’m allergic, I’m probably sneaking off for the wet wipes I keep in my pocketbook before returning to the party.

According to recent research, hand sanitizer is not believed to be sufficient to clean off a surface (or your hands) of allergens.  Howerver, most wet wipes are.

Cross-contamination is a huge issue.  That means if you put your knife in the peanut butter and then in the jelly (even if you wiped it off on a napkin), I can’t use your jelly.  That means if a peanut candy is produced on the same line as a non-nut-containing candy, I can’t eat either.

Companies in the U.S. are now required by law to state if a food contains one of the top 8 food allergens.  There’s less of a standard on how potential cross-contamination is listed.  Most companies have their own policies.  Some list, some don’t, some will list for some items, but not others (ie, for peanuts, but not peanut oil– which contains less of the protein and is considered “less allergic”).  And those lotions and cosmetics– they don’t have to list anything.  They’re not regulated as food and therefore are not governed by the same law.

The food allergy law states that an ingredient label state if top 8 allergens are contained in a food.  These ingredients must not only be listed, but must be listed in plain language, for instance, “peanut” or “milk.”  These ingredients must not be listed using a scientific name or hidden under labels like “natural flavoring.”

I make a lot of phone calls and visit a lot of websites to clarify how different companies label their food and what their policies are.

I always carry an EpiPen and Benadryl.  As a girl, this also means my purse must be large enough to hold the EpiPen, or I need to have a pocket to put it in– so it affects what I wear and how I accessorize at times.

Allergies affect where I go and who I let in my life.  Asian restaurants are prime cross-contamination spots.  Although I must bring my own food to all restaurants (my allergies are severe– and I have quite a few of them), I still avoid Asian restaurants for this reason.

If you can’t understand or respect my allergies, I probably won’t spend time with you.  If you’re a guy and we’re out on a date, you need to be careful of what you order if you want to kiss me later.

If you know someone with food allergies, be supportive.  And if you can do that much, you’ll be making the world a better, safer place.  For 25-year-olds in NY, 7-year-olds in VA, and everyone, all ages, everywhere.

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Wheeeeee!!!

Or I should, perhaps say “Wiiiiiii!!”  One of the exciting things this Christmas was my boyfriend bought me a Wii.  My dad bought me the Wii Fit plus pack.  I’ve been doing different activities every couple of days, but today was really the most fun.  For one thing, for the first several days I was accidentally using the balance board backwards.  This caused some issues as I was constantly leaning the wrong way– and getting hit in the head with hula hoops, falling off ice bergs, etc.  And my coordination appeared to be terribly off, giving me (age 25) a Wii Fit age of 46.  Today, balance board spun to the correct position, I was very happily proclaimed 20 years old and far more coordinated.  Yay!  And I tackled the Basic Run, a few strength training exercises and a little yoga.  I got a yoga mat for Christmas too– my goal is to get a little more familiar and coordinated via Wii and then try to go take a few real classes.  I had taken one last May and had loved it.  Eventually, I’d love to try hot yoga, but I’m going with the baby steps approach.

Exercise always makes me feel strong and like I want to dance.  And I could use the stress relief lately too– grad school applications and sick grandparents has been most of my past two months.  So a little movement– and fun– is a welcome relief.

Wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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(I’ll be loving you) Always

My grandfather, who I affectionately refer to as “Deda,” passed away just about a month ago.  As I’ve already mentioned, Mom and I have been staying with Grandma.  Today would have been their 65th Wedding Anniversary.

The song in the title has been swimming in my head for almost two months.  You see, it’s their song.  My connection with music has always been one I’ve shared with my grandparents, who taught me to dance the foxtrot at age 10 (they tried to teach me the lindy and others, but I didn’t take as well to those unfortunately).  A few years ago, I’d dressed up ’40s style and came to sing to them on their Anniversary.  And of course, I sang “Always.”  (This site has a nice explanation and lyrics of the song.)

I spend a lot of time now remembering; but I know the biggest and most important lesson I’ll learn was the last one they taught me together, summed up in that old familiar song…

It was the lesson I learned when my 92-year-old grandfather, the night before he was rushed to the emergency room, had to take the extra steps– walker in hand and aide behind– to kiss my grandmother goodnight, because he couldn’t let her go to sleep without kissing her.  As he walked into the bedroom, he told us– my mother, the aide and I– that she was his life.

It was the lesson I learned when, on a respirator, unable to speak, he mouthed “I love you” to my Grandma.

It was the lesson I learned when my Grandma, who’s been very sick herself for about a year, forces herself to get dressed and out of the house every day for two weeks straight, and still after, several times a week, to visit Deda in ICU: An old woman, sitting in a wheelchair, near the bedside of an old man, on a respirator, on a feeding tube, IVs scattered about: holding hands.

And even though it was difficult, she’d force herself to stand almost every night, just to look into his eyes, touch his face, brush his hair back with her hand, maybe kiss his shoulder.

For a single 25-year-old, I don’t think there could be a stronger image of what it means to be there for someone “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.”  And I sat there for days and stared at the epitome of “in sickness” and “for worse.”

But my grandparents meant those vows when they said them.  And they meant them every time they danced them as well. “Not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year, but Always.*”

Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Deda, even though this year you’re spending it apart.  And Thank You, for every moment, lesson, and story- big or small.

[The picture is my grandparents’ engagement photo– one of my very favorites of them.]

*Irving Berlin, Always, 1925

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