Last year I wrote a list of 10 things I wanted to remember about 2010, which fit nicely because of the whole parallelism thing. So this year I was going to do 11 things I want to remember about 2011, but I don’t know how many years I’m planning to do this annual post, and it seemed like I could easily get myself into a pickle once we got up to the year 2050 (and possibly before that). So I think I’m going to stick with 10 because 10 is a nice, round number.
And so, I give you: 10 Things I Want to Remember about 2011 (in chronological order):
1) Getting my First Housemate
Before January 2011, the only time I lived with someone outside my parents’ house was in college, when I had the same roommate for four years. That relationship had its complications and faults, as any roommate situation will, but overall, the fact that we were able to live together for four years, especially in the midst of some of our friends changing roommates every semester, indicated that we had figured out something pretty good. When she decided to have a husband instead of a roommate, I decided to live alone, and I did so from May 2006 until January 2011 – almost five full years – in four different places (two apartments and two houses, the last [and current] house being the one I bought). After about eight months of solo home ownership, some different factors combined to make me wonder whether a co-habitation situation might be more cost efficient and might do a service to someone needing a place to live. Acting on these inklings, I set out to find someone to share my living space and pay me rent, and through the connection of a mutual friend, I was introduced by email to Jordan, who now occupies the master bedroom in my house.
The first time I met Jordan in person was the afternoon he pulled up to my curb with his Jeep and an attached trailer full of all his stuff that I helped him move in. I didn’t know yet how things would pan out, and a wiser person than I would probably have been apprehensive about the fact that all I had was an email exchange agreeing on the rent rate to serve as the guidelines that would govern our living situation. But, without a lease or contract, without setting any rules, and without really discussing our habits with each other, we embarked on the adventure of co-ed, non-domestic-partnership occupation of a two-bedroom house, and I have to say, I don’t know if it could have worked out better if I’d handpicked someone myself (say, my old college roommate, for instance). Perhaps I got lucky, or perhaps the mutual friend who suggested the arrangement knew us better than we thought, or perhaps God has blessed the situation. Whatever it is, Jordan and I are just a few days away from one full year of living in the same house, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it has turned out. I don’t know when he plans to move out, and I have no plans to ask him to move out, so I think things are still going well.
2) Cross-Country Road Trip with Grandpa
Hands down, this is probably my favorite memory from 2011. The last time I went on a vacation with my grandpa, I was 10 years old, and my grandma was with us too. So a two-week road trip without my grandma and as an adult was, to say the least, a recipe for a memorable adventure. We spent 14 days driving as far north as Madison, Wisconsin, and as far east as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then back home to Kansas City. We did and saw a lot and had only a few hiccups along the way. I would for sure do something like this again, but I think I will urge Grandpa to get his car’s air conditioning double checked before we leave next time. It broke halfway through the trip, and we spent the next seven days without cool air. It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t horrible until the day we drove from West Virginia to Indianapolis. That day was long, hot, and sticky. The air conditioning debacle was the only major thing that went wrong. We had a good time and got some great pictures, and I kept the Twitter world up to date as we went, tweeting such gems as these along the way:
Road trip rule #1: driver controls radio. We`re listening to jazz across iowa.
Unscheduled stop #1: National Farm Toy Museum in Dyersville, IA.
I was wrong. Driver does NOT control radio. In grandpa`s car, grandpa controls radio. Gospel choir across ohio.
Me: goodnight, see you in the morning! Gpa: Thanks for the warning!
A 2 1/2-mile hike with a swim in the middle fork river in the middle. All at Audra State Park. Now that`s a good day!
Eating at “the most visited restaurant” in this town. They fail to mention that`s bc it`s the ONLY one.
My alarm went off at 5 this am. Gpa wasn’t awake yet. His groggy response: “You play music in the middle of the night?”
3) Running my 2nd Half Marathon
I think we all remember how excited and proud I was when I ran my first half marathon. In April 2011 I surprised myself again by completing my second one. My time was slower, and my training hadn’t been as rigorous, and I was admittedly less ecstatic about this one (due to other extenuating factors surrounding and leading up to the event itself), but in the end, I had another medal and another proud notch on the bedpost of my athletic accomplishments. And a hankering to train again for another…
4) Celebrating a Friendship’s 10-Year Anniversary
That college roommate I mentioned in #1 plays a key role in the significance of this one. We met in the summer of 2001, a year and a half before we would live together for four consecutive years (excluding one semester that she spent in Russia). Since then, we have been through a lot, both together and separately. The friendship itself even went through a tough period that required an emotional reconciliation, which happened, coincidentally, last summer – just in time to acknowledge the fact that we had been friends for 10 years. We have had a few rough patches, but we’ve mostly had laughter and joy, and we’ve racked up an impressive list of inside jokes (half of which one of us can’t even remember). There are people in my life I’ve known longer than Adrianne, and there are people I’ve known the same amount of time. But there is no one else unrelated by blood whom I’ve kept in such consistent contact with for 10 full years. Here’s to another ten years of inside jokes we can’t properly explain.
5) Becoming a Church Board Member
I have been part of my church in Kansas City now for just over two years, which I don’t consider a long time. So it surprised me when my pastor informed me last June that I had been nominated to serve on our church board, and it was with humble hesitation that I eventually accepted the nomination. I had no idea what it would be like, but after six months of service, I have learned to see the church (local and global) in a whole new light. Serving on the church board has helped me see how the body of Christ really does need to be a body, with many different parts. I have truly found a family in my church, and my service on the board, though occasionally time consuming and sometimes even inconvenient, has been rewarding beyond expectation. I have seen fellow members of my church family in new ways and have learned to feel compassion and empathy in ways I didn’t know were possible. And, above all, I have been reminded, time and again, that nothing in this life is about us.
6) Riding my First Motorcycle
Everyone who gets to have this experience considers it a memorable one, right? Well, if they don’t, they’re a lump of lard. However, I have extra reasons not to forget my first motorcycle experience because it coincides with my first large-scale, full-blown tick infestation. Last summer I made a new friend, and he owns a motorcycle and offered to give me a ride when he found out I’d never been on one. Obviously, I took him up on the offer, and one beautiful Saturday morning in August, he came and picked me up, and we rode all over Kansas City. We rode on interstates, on surface roads, on two-lane roads, on gravel roads, and on country highways. We went everywhere.
At one point, we stopped for an intermission and tromped through some very high grass on an exploration mission of some kind. Unfortunately, that high grass was where I apparently picked up a small colony of ticks. I felt kind of itchy several minutes after we left the wooded and high-grass area, and later, when I got home and peeled off my pants, shoes, and socks, I discovered that my legs, ankles, and feet were completely covered in ticks (and therefore tick bites). I scraped them all off, did a thorough inspection of the rest of my body (having horrible flashbacks of the scrubbings I used to get after coming home from romps in my grandparents’ wooded farm property), and took a scalding-hot shower just to be safe. And then I spent the next three weeks with red, splotchy legs and feet and dark surface scars I was sure would never disappear. Six months later, there is no trace of the markings, and I don’t have Lyme disease, thank goodness. But, even though we have no pictures from the legendary three-hour motorcycle ride, I don’t think I will ever forget it, thanks to the nice insects that decided to host their family reunion on my body.
7) My 27th Birthday
I have had a lot of memorable birthdays in my life (mainly because birthdays are very important to me, and my friends and family know that and do a good job of making them memorable), and 27 was no exception. My wonderful friends J.R. and Jenny Caines (who also happen to be the parents of two of my favorite boys in the whole world, Jack and Cason) hospitably opened their home to me (even though Jenny was 8 months pregnant and it was the hottest week of the year) on the momentous occasion of August 5, 2011, and I threw a party and celebrated turning 27 with 20 of my closest friends in Kansas City. We talked, laughed, ate, drank (cream soda only, no alochol, I promise – even though there are some pictures up on Facebook that make it look like I’m drinking alcohol), played games, and generally just celebrated me. Which, coincidentally, is pretty much my favorite thing to do on my birthday. And then, the next day, LF came back in town, and I got to celebrate all over again with him. We had been dating all of two weeks by then, but we had a blast having a book-burning party on my porch. And so 27 became a birthday milestone I hope I don’t forget.
8) Running my 3rd Half Marathon
Would you believe it, I ran yet another half marathon. That makes three overall. It was quite a year for me athletically. Not to mention the 5, 10, and 15k races I did in June, August, and September leading up to the half. I still sometimes have trouble believing that I have done three half marathons. It’s just such an absurd thought. But the third one was the Kansas City Half, and my dear friend Reese came up from Oklahoma City to run it with me. Half marathons are so much more enjoyable (even if, like me, you hate running) when you run them with friends, and so far I have been lucky enough to run all three of mine with very good friends. This half was my favorite. The course was delightful, and (as I discovered at the half I did in April), I very much enjoy running through my own city. Of course, I haven’t put on my running attire since October, but oh well. I trust I’ll get back to it soon enough.
9) Learning to Love Scrabble
One of the biggest things I am ashamed of in my life is how bad I am at word games, Scrabble especially. As an editor, a writer, a wordsmith, and a general lover of language, linguistics, and all things word related, people assume I am an expert at word games. It has been a point of embarrassment when people have chosen me to be on their teams for word game challenges and then been disappointed to find that I am actually their least valuable player. They say, “But how can you not be good at word games?” and all I can do is shrug my shameful shoulders. Because of this, my attempts at Scrabble have been limited, and I have mostly avoided the game. It depresses me to play it because of how horrible I am at it.
For my birthday this year, some wonderful friends (who weren’t aware of my hate-hate relationship with this game) gave me Scrabble, thinking (sensibly) that I would love it. I smiled and said thank you, knowing I should love it and understanding the reasoning behind their thinking. But I went home and put the game away and did not expect to play it, except maybe once, just to be able to tell them I had. But then LF found out that I had received it, and he urged me to play with him. To humor him (because the relationship was still quite new at that point), I relented, and we played. On our first game, I lost by a humiliating margin. I didn’t really enjoy myself, and I didn’t want to play again. But LF kept asking me to play periodically, again and again, and I began to notice that my technique was improving and that the difference in our scores at the end wasn’t nearly as vast.
I realized that Scrabble is not all about being really good with words. It’s also about strategizing your tile placement for maximum point scoring. Besides that, LF took pity on me in my despair and has been an encouraging, kind, helpful, and – most importantly – lenient Scrabble opponent. He has helped me learn to enjoy Scrabble, and he has even been open to rule modifications so that, twice now, we have played Themed Scrabble, where we only put down words that fit an established theme. And now, I am usually the one who suggests a game of Scrabble, and except for that first game, I cannot think of a time that I have not enjoyed playing.
10) Officially Deciding to Pursue a Master’s Degree
This is arguably the most significant event that occurred in 2011, at least with regard to my future, even though technically a decision isn’t really an event. It felt big for me, though. After I finished undergrad, I declared that graduate school was not in the cards for me. I claimed I was sick of school and was ready to experience a part of life that didn’t center around studying, writing papers, and sitting in classrooms. And I was, and I think that was fair. I had spent my whole life in school. But lately I have been missing the classroom. I have been itching to be challenged and pushed and evaluated.
I haven’t thought a lot about the degree I would pursue because I thought I didn’t have much of a choice. I’m not interested in a literature degree, but English is the only thing I can do, so the only other option seemed to be writing. Having a master’s degree in writing sounds impressive, I thought. And besides that, it certainly wouldn’t hurt my editorial career. And then one day, as I thought about how much I love language – the study of all languages, not just English – I realized that linguistics might be a wiser choice for a degree.
I have been stewing about all of this for a year now, and for a year I’ve been waffling and dragging my feet about committing. But near the end of 2011, I made a firm decision, and I am now enrolled in back-to-back GRE prep courses for the duration of the spring semester, after which I hope to take the general GRE and then enroll in a graduate program. I still don’t have all the details worked out, but these are my goals.
I don’t have a lot of complaints about 2011. It was a good year. There are things I am happy to leave behind, though – emotions I’m relieved to have finally shed and unhealthy mindsets I’ve made a conscious effort to change. Just like everyone else, I don’t know what 2012 will hold, but I am looking forward to finding out.