Monday, July 21, 2014

723 Does a Puzzle

I love my share of the little grey house on Brooks Street. Kirsten hasn't moved in yet, but I am eagerly awaiting her arrival, desperate for the sounds of an actual full house. The empty room by the front door is a constant reminder that we are not yet complete. But Kylie and I have had a blast as roommates for the past two months!
Many many laughs have been had, so much so that I've begun thinking I need to start a monthly installment of a post titled "conversations in the little grey house on Brooks Street."
We've discussed pizza and breadsticks at great length. We've lamented the shoddiness of our oven and the over-alert-ness of our smoke detector. Whichever it is, whenever the oven is opened to take out food, it must be aggressively fanned to prevent the screeching of the alarm. We have learned and often warn each other when removing meals.
We've spent time arranging the word magnets on our fridge into inappropriate phrases, fitting for a 22 year old and an almost 21 year old. We still don't have a couch in our living room, but there is a painted bookcase and a few boxes. So very homey.
I've met our neighbors across the street and they are some of the sweetest people ever. The husband helped me move in a chest of drawers one afternoon, which is when I learned his wife (Jana?Janet?He spoke so fast!) was also an English major. I met her a few weeks later when she was out gardening and she assured me she is gainfully employed and always has been. It gives me hope! I also met their swoon-worthy son..
A few nights ago I sat on the front porch, wrapped in my sleeping bag since we still don't have furniture out there yet, and watched the torrential downpour. I can't determine whether I love our back deck or our front porch more...both are perfection in their own ways, in different kinds of weather. I lay on the back deck and soak up the rays often. But on this particular evening, I saw our neighbors across the street from the porch and we exchanged pleasantries. He mentioned his wife had just made dinner and asked if I would like some roasted quinoa and vegetables. Up until this point in my life, I had never tasted quinoa. But when the neighbor with the attractive son offers you free food YOU DON'T SAY NO. So I apprehensively said yes. He brought a dish over to me and commented on my book choice, remembering the title and author to tell his word loving wife.
And my verdict on quinoa? Not bad!
I've decorated my room with a few of my favorite things: namely people, places, and Thunder colors. I painted my dresser Scotland blue and attached orange knobs, a tribute to my main man, KD. I found a perfect set of drawers at Hobby Lobby, marked down from an astronomical price, and made an impulse buy. Each drawer is painted a different country flag from all over the world. I love that I've been to 6 out of the 10 places. My room is an escape. I can look at one of the many postcards and pictures plastered all over the walls and be transported to a different time in my life. A time when I was spending money, not saving it. A time when I was talking with my friends in a flat in Dundee, not snatching a few moments to Facetime or Skype. A time when I was constantly planning my next adventure. And the giant Scotland flag above my bed is definitely  a conversation starter, if nothing else!
I love evenings within the little grey house the best. Gibby is home from work, I am just walking in from a shift at Sam's, usually dramatically dropping my vest on the nearest surface, and we sit at the kitchen table (because, remember, there's nowhere else to sit). Sometimes we talk, sometimes we blare music, sometimes we drink, sometimes we snapchat, and sometimes we do all of the above, PLUS put together a puzzle. 
I roped Gibby into completing an "impossipuzzle" with me, so named because it's just an image of cupcakes in rows and it's incredibly hard to put together. We struggled to piece it together, throwing puzzle pieces to the side in fits of "dammit I've tried that one there 8 times, take it away from me!" 
And I marveled at how often it looked like a puzzle piece might almost fit. It had all of the characteristics of the one next to it. But the shape was slightly skewed, just good enough to look right from a distance, but not good enough to be perfect. 
My life is like that puzzle. I try to fit the pieces together and sometimes they look right at first. They might even look right for a long time. But then I look again and see the edges don't quite line up. That piece belongs in my life, but it might not belong where I originally thought it did. As the pieces rearrange and come together, I see more clearly what my life is beginning to look like. And A Very Lucky Girl is happy with the picture. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crazy Would Be Changing My Mind

I danced around my home yesterday morning, torn between laughing hysterically and crying of pure joy. 
The direction of my life was so fantastically validated. 
When I first started researching the Internet for information regarding teaching English as a second language, I signed up for emails from a job listings site. Just for kicks. I felt sure I would regret the enormous influx of spam, but instead I found something wonderful. 
One morning, when I was taking that damn Ancient Art of War in June, I scrolled through the options of the day in my email and found a listing for online volunteers needed for a program in Rio de Janeiro. 
Considering I have high hopes and crossed fingers to get into the Fulbright program, destination Brazil, I jumped at the chance to become more involved in this pursuit. 
I sent the woman my resume and a short blurb about me and why I was interested. 
She responded quickly and set up a Skype chat with me for Thursday, July 10. Because it is a volunteer opportunity and not an actual job, I was hopeful, but not particularly positive about my chances, considering I have zero experience teaching anyone how to speak English. Unless you count my grammar Nazi tendencies. 
Thursday morning found me sitting in front of my laptop almost 20 minutes before our scheduled meeting, showered, made up, and clothed in a dress, cardigan, and even heels. Our 11 AM time came and went and, even though I anxiously refreshed Skype, a request never came in. I emailed my contact to inquire and she was very apologetic about her Internet connection issues and suggested we try again Friday morning. This time at 8:30 AM. I readily agreed, but went to bed with lowered expectations of receiving the opportunity to volunteer. 
Friday morning found me sitting in front of my laptop about 5 minutes before our scheduled meeting, unshowered, barefoot, still wearing Thursday night's mascara, and clothed in pajama bottoms, tank top and sports bra, with a cardigan thrown over the entire ensemble. I hope all of my interviews are of the Skype variety from now on. 
We had a lovely half an hour conversation and she filled me in on the program. I still have limited knowledge, but the organization is called EnglishWorks and is made up of eight "learning squares" in Rio. Each class is made up of about 30 people, of varying ages from 14-80 and the students have a live teacher, an online teacher, and then us, the volunteer tutors who hail from all over the world with varying levels of expertise. Some of them are professionals and here I am, a lowly university student...
But, miracle of miracles, she assigned me a class. Which led to the dancing/laughing/crying fest on Friday morning following the Skype call. I immediately told Sam's Club (my new place of employment) that I would have limited availability on Fridays due to my new commitment from 6-6:30 PM Rio time (aka 4-4:30 PM). 
I received an email with information regarding my class, including the teachers' Skype contacts and and an invitation to the EnglishWorks Volunteers Facebook group. This is happening. And I couldn't be A Very Luckier Girl. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Talk Tinder To Me

There's been an app floating around for probably a year or two now called Tinder. If you aren't familiar, I'll try to explain the basis for how it works. All users sign up through their Facebook account and the app reveals several profile pictures, the first name and age of the user, and their interests. Everything you've liked since you first signed up for Facebook in 2008 will appear on Tinder, including "Eating" and "Mama Mia." I do thoroughly enjoy both things, but I usually don't let strangers know right off the bat. On Tinder, I didn't have a choice.
The language of my phone is currently in Portuguese, so I was even more at a disadvantage with how to navigate this new app. I eventually figured out how to set my preferences, and opted for people within 10 miles of me of the ages 21 to 25. If they couldn't buy me a drink they were automatically out of the running. 
I added two more pictures to my profile, each user is allowed six, and wrote a few sentences in my "about Taylor" section.
"Self proclaimed Tinder cynic. This seemed like a good idea after two drinks. Now I'm not so sure." 
After my preferences and profile were set, I could start swiping right or left. Profiles appear on the main page of Tinder with the option to either swipe right or left to indicate my interest. If I swiped right, I was interested enough to possibly match, but if I swiped left I would never see their profile again. If the other person swiped right on me as well, then we could talk in the messages section of Tinder. Sometimes they would have already swiped right on me and when I did the same, Tinder would exclaim "it's a match!" Essentially, before a guy could approach me, I had to have swiped right on him also. 
It's a fairly shallow system, based completely on first appearances. It's impossible to fit your personality in the "about me" section of the profile and the guys who even attempted it looked to be trying far too hard.
I was incredibly picky in my swiping rights, sending guys who featured selfies, obnoxiously large group photos, and gaggles of girls over to the left.
But first, I'm sure several of you are clamoring to know why I was even on the app in the first place. I've been severely critical of it in the past, but after a few four dollar frozens on Thursday night and some encouragement from Samm, I decided to chance it. I went in with zero expectations. In fact, I expected all of the dudes to be sleazy and strange. The entertainment factor was the biggest draw, and as the matches began and the weirdness started, I resolved to stay for a week, screenshot all of the craziness, and then write about it. I also reached out to friends who I knew were on Tinder at one time or another to get their opinions and screenshots. 
And to protect the guys, because they had no idea of the screenshots I was taking and I do kinda have a conscience, all names and pictures have been removed.
I'm old-fashioned when it comes to approaching strange guys on the Internet, so I only initiated one conversation. This particular gentleman's profile mentioned he was from the UK so my Dundee-lovin' self immediately messaged him, apologizing for my forwardness and inquiring as to where he was from exactly. I was increasingly disappointed as he revealed his English roots and completely butchered the spelling of "Edinburgh."
Throughout my short lived (thankfully) journey on Tinder, I found there are at least five different type of guy that girls discover through indiscriminate swiping. **Note** I cannot speak for a guy's experience on Tinder though I would love to hear feedback!
1. The Guy Who Doesn't Online Date But Yet is Still on Tinder 
He never made good on the coffee thing. 
2. The Guy who Overuses Emojis or Pet Names and Sometimes Both

3. The Guy with an Animal as His Only Photo
*swipes left*
4. The Guy Who Uses Humor in his Favor

"If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything. Like swipe right on Tinder"-Marilyn Monroe
5. And Finally, the Guy Who Thinks He has Lines, But Really You're Just Thinking WTF

I did run into some fairly decent guys during my experiment, probably using the app as pure entertainment, just like me. There was even one guy who boldly called me out on my presence:
Kudos to him for making me confess the truth. 
It hasn't even been a week yet and I'm already 1000% done with the whole thing. I don't like judging people purely on their appearance and I don't like being approached lewdly. Sure, it's not an all-bad app, but in my experience the good didn't outweigh the bad. Plus, I just got the reading lists for my six English classes in the fall and, unless it's a male character in a book, I will have zero time for boys. 
Thanks for the laughs Tinder, but three days was plenty for A Very Lucky Girl.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Liebster Award: Feelin' 22 Edition

I have done one of these blogging interaction awards before, but when my friend Amber, of Clearly Alive, nominated me last week I couldn't say no to a fellow Addison's fighter. And since today, July 1, is my day of birth it is socially acceptable to make it all about me for 24 hours. 
Amber is a pretty cool person from what I've garnered from our conversations on social media. I first "met" her in an Addison's Disease Support Group on Facebook. She is currently working in Malaysia and her lifestyle there is encouraging when it comes to me wanting to pursue my own career abroad. 
Her 11 questions for me:
1. How did you decide on the name for your blog?
This one is easy. I explained it in my inaugural post more than two years ago #timeflieswhenyourblogisfun
2. What is your funniest "brain fog" story? 
That time I couldn't even remember a "brain fog" story. AKA now. 
3. Cats or Dogs? 
DOGS. One in particular, my sister, my boo-thang, the love of my life, Beignet. I'm convinced she is going to live forever because I cannot comprehend a world without her. 


4. Favorite piece of advice ever received?
"Don't be afraid to give up the good and go for the great."-Steve Prefontaine. Shoutout to Pinterest and Nat for sending me that gem. Sometimes "good" is comfortable and familiar, but, to me, the chance for "great" is worth risking "good." 
5. Dumbest piece of advice ever received?
Time heals all things. LOL K.
6. Share one of your favorite pictures from your traveling adventures?
Just one!?! FINE. I took this one on the Isle of Skye during my Highlands trip at the end of March. Scotland will always have a home in my heart and I am proud of this trip in particular. There was a lot of strife in my romantic relationship at the time and I used this weekend to disconnect from Wifi and focus a lot on what I was thinking and feeling. I also went on this trip alone. I didn't know a single person on the bus until I got on and met them all. And now they will always have a place to stay America, and I know I could crash their countries as well. I remember being in awe the entire weekend, both of the Scottish landscapes and the strides I've made in turning strangers into friends. 
7. What keeps you going when times get insanely tough?
Thinking about where I came from and where I plan on going. I don't have power over my past, but I have power over my future. 
8. Favorite ice cream flavour?
Chocolate chip cookie dough. All of the rest are kind of mediocre. 
9. Sunrise or sunset?
This question made me laugh because I had just discussed it with my friend Nim a few days ago! 
Told you. But to answer the question, I definitely prefer sunsets. Especially since I don't have to wake up early to appreciate their glory. 
10. Quick! Describe yourself in only four words!
A Very Lucky Girl. I hope y'all saw that one coming. 
11. And in conclusion, please share one picture of yourself that you believe captures your personality. 
I know my friends have hundreds of screenshots from snapchat that they feel capture my true self. But I'm torn between two photographs: one that Gibby took and one that LDL took. I remember both of these days so vividly, and though neither one of these are particularly attractive, I distinctly remember how happy I was. 
We are standing in the courtyard of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on our backpacking trip. I have my phone in my hand, because I am a self-diagnosed social media addict and I have my sweatshirt tied around my waist because I'm not afraid to look like a geek. My hair is in a messy bun because it is hot as Hades and I'm guzzling the water in my left hand. As for my facial expression? My guess is I was posing for the pope/LDL has just said something sassy.
This was taken in the gardens of Glamis Castle, one of my favorite excursions with the Dundee exchange group, with just a few days left in my Scotland adventure. Gibby has just put that purple flower in my hair and I remember being elated to just exist with those people in that place at that time. I'm not sure they could say the same since they had to put up with this face all day ;)

Thank you for the questions, Amber. I'm excited for what this year of 22 holds for me. 21 taught me a lot and I can't wait to learn from 22. First lesson: how does one dress like a hipster? A Very Lucky Girl might be too mainstream for what the TSwift song requires of me. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Addison's Update

I have mixed feelings about my visit to the endocrinologist on Tuesday afternoon. It was a concoction of good news and meh news. I learned I have lost weight, which I attribute to the fact that I physically cannot eat Pringles without Nat, although the mile walk to and from campus every morning may have something to do with it as well. According to the bloodwork, my thyroid levels are still doing well and though hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism could arise at any time, now is not that time and I am thankful. I confessed some not-so-wise health decisions I made in Europe, earning a glare and a "we learned our lesson speech" from my doctor (who I LOVE by the way-she is the most thorough lady on the planet). 
I have been really forgetful about taking my 2.5 mg hydrocortisone at night, pretty much since January, but I haven't been feeling any unfortunate effects from it. However, it does leave me with only 17.5 mg of hydrocortisone in my system daily, which is rather on the low side. My doctor encouraged me to take the 2.5 with my afternoon dose, depending on how I feel. Addison's is a very subjective disease in that regard. 
The final part of my appointment was an ultrasound. About two years ago she felt something in my thyroid and wanted to check on it again now. This time she found two cysts, one on each side. She was hesitant to refer to them as nodules, explaining that the fluid characteristics denoted a cyst. She said nothing about them looked sinister or worrisome, but the fact that they were there at all wasn't exactly a comfortable thought. She took measurements of both (they are tiny, like 2-4 millimeters) and said we would check them again in a few years to make sure they aren't doing anything weird. 
Also during the ultrasound she mentioned that my thyroid looked like the beginning stages of Hashimoto's disease which, after some extensive Google searches, I learned is a fancy/terrifying name for what happens when my derpy immune system attacks my thyroid because attacking my adrenal glands 3 years ago just wasn't satisfying enough. Where do I sign up for a new immune system? I'm ready to fire mine. Hashimoto's would likely lead to hypothyroidism, so I would just pop an extra daily pill or two, which is honestly not a big deal. 
As frustrating as my body can be, it could be so much worse. I read an article about chronic illness that my Addison's friend Eva posted the other day. It mentioned that those with chronic illness cannot fight what opposes their health. It is impossible for me to beat Addison's disease. But I can live with Addison's disease. And it's a Very Lucky Life. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

When Life is like WHOA

Have you ever had a day where your entire life just made sense and you knew you were right where you were supposed to be?
That was Tuesday for me.
I thought I would take the time to share a bit about my terribly thrilling 8 AM class every morning this summer. Thankfully, it's a short class and the final exam is on July 3rd, just in time for me to celebrate my freedom with the rest of America on July 4th.
But until then I'm stuck in Dale Hall Room 107 every weekday from 8-10:10 AM. Those last ten minutes are especially excruciating.
The class is overwhelmingly male, most likely due to the subject matter: The Ancient Art of War. Our textbook is actually called "With Arrow, Sword, and Spear." Riveting, right?
The majority of the points are received for attendance and group participation and I find myself asking the other 4 members of the my group (again, all male) to explain the battles over and over to me. I'm hoping they continue to find it endearing/not annoying for the rest of the term. The entire concept of strategy is decidedly foreign to me in all things war, except for Battleship. I can sink a mean destroyer. The only two thoughts I had really had in that classroom up until Tuesday were:
  1. Alexander the Great was 20 years old when he began his reign in Greece. And while he was fighting Persians and ruling the world, I can't even paint furniture without ending up with splatters on my arms and legs for days. I'm not really sure how I feel about my inadequacy right now. 
  2. And, the ancient wars seem incredibly dumb. We discuss various battles and one in particular on Tuesday seemed ludicrous to me. First, Alexander marched to the Persian territory. Which makes sense, but how did they know he was coming? Did he send an invite, "hey so could you guys meet me at this river? I wanna fight"? Did someone in Greece have a loudmouth and blog about the impending march? However it occurred, there was a Persian army waiting for him at the specific river. And the book we read said they literally stood on either side of the river and stared at each other for some time. Until Alexander decided to REALLY win the staring contest and attacked. The whole concept is just ludicrous. 
ANYWAY. Those were the only two epiphanies I had in my personal hell MTWThF until this recent Tuesday.
On Monday night I spent a significant amount of time researching English teaching jobs. I left my email address for program after program, inviting an influx of spam and information on careers in Greece, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Argentina, Tanzania, and even Scotland. It feels good to have a direction for my life after university. 
So you can imagine the goosebumps on my skin when a representative for the Fulbright Student Program spoke in my class on Tuesday morning. The program funds recent college graduates to teach, study, or conduct research in 155 countries worldwide. I'm going to apply for an English Teaching Assistantship grant and, if I receive it, I would serve alongside a more senior instructor in a classroom overseas for about 20 hours a week, providing conversational practice and access to American culture. They cover costs of transportation and living expenses for 8-12 months. She left her information at the bottom of a flyer so I emailed her as soon as I got home from class and arranged a meeting with her for later today.
I had never heard of the Fulbright Student Program until that morning. Chances are I wouldn't have heard about it if I hadn't been in that specific class. I wouldn't have been in that specific class if any other history topics were available. I wouldn't have had to be in a summer class if I hadn't spent the spring semester in Scotland. I wouldn't have spent the semester in Scotland if I had stayed at TCU in 2010. I wouldn't have gone to TCU if I hadn't moved away from Raleigh. The list goes on...
It blows my mind to know that nothing is an accident. 
I firmly believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am doing exactly what I'm supposed to do and I'm becoming who I'm destined to be. Sometimes the magic of life takes my breath away. And even though I hate my alarm every morning because of the damn summer class, I'm going to go with a smile. Even the Ancient Art of War can be used for good in the life of A Very Lucky Girl. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Withholding my Bests

It's been a busy few weeks. America is far more stressful than Scotland. Most likely because I didn't have classes that counted or a job in Dundee (I actually still haven't found a job so totally willing to wash someone's cat or something). Moving to Norman has dominated most of my time. I gathered my life from what seemed like all corners of the United States, from OKC to Houston, and I still have belongings coming from Louisiana in July.
I'm in love with our little grey cottage situated on Brooks Street, only a mile from campus and a mile from Campus Corner bars. Could the location BE anymore perfect?! 
I couldn't wait to move to Norman, but now that I'm permanently here, it is filled with memories from the last two years of my life. Places that once made me smile make me cringe as I drive past. There are certain CDs I don't listen to anymore. There were so many plans that are no longer going to come to fruition. 
I fully trust that this change will ultimately be good. I have faith in my future, but it doesn't mean change is easy. 
My grandmother sent me a book in the mail titled "In the Garden of Thoughts" and there is one in particular that has resonated with me recently.
"It is time to go and leave the past behind. Exile the thoughts of painful memories. You have learned what they have taught you."
It is a good reminder for me. Some memories may sting now, but I have many more beautiful ones to make here in Norman and beyond. What I used to think were the best days of my life were just the beginning of better days. My friend Nimesh and I had a really interesting talk on whatsapp while we were both under the influence of prescription drugs and I think it has sober relevance. 

To sum up, he reminded me of the dangers of labeling anything or anyone "best." I am very free with the adjective, using it to describe anything from people to pasta, and while there are worse things in the world, it is unfair to the future. Who's to say the best isn't yet to come? I don't want to limit my future by declaring the present as best. 
I hope I am constantly striving for best, but appreciating each life stage as better than the one prior. 
Just because it isn't best doesn't deem it worst. 
I've struggled with "getting over" Dundee and my time there. It's especially hard because my relationships with the friends I met are not limited to my time there, but instead stretch into my future and I wouldn't want it any other way. 
But I need to stop thinking of my time Scotland as the best in my life. It likely was the longest series of good days, to use Nim's words, I've had in a long time, but I choose to refuse to limit my best life to one single semester. A Very Lucky Girl deserves a better best.