Friday, February 19, 2016

Jammin' fingers

After contentedly enjoying winter for weeks, my desire to hibernate ended around the time the groundhog didn't see his shadow. Of course, this happened just as the yucky inversion settled in over Utah—I couldn't see the mountains or the sun for days—which only made me even more stir-crazy being stuck inside all day.

These are the kinds of circumstances that force me to seek exciting changes—aka, "good" stress. This time, it was basketball.

No, no, not watching it; playing it.

The last time I was on an organized basketball team, I was about 11. Until junior high, I would shoot hoops in the driveway or play HORSE with my siblings, but I never really got past the remember-to-dribble-with-one-hand, shoot-the-ball-when-you're-open, defense-is-like-playing-tag stage.

The point is, it's been many, many years since I've played, and I knew I wouldn't be any good. I'm only telling you all this so you'll pat me on the back for being a big girl and doing it anyway.

I arrived at the stake center knowing full well that in about 24 hours I would feel like I'd been run over by a tractor. My return to softball had taught me that painful lesson.

The pain came, but about 20 minutes into the game, and in a way I wasn't really prepared for.

When you watch real athletes play basketball, your heart goes out to them when ankles are sprained and ACLs are torn. But nobody cares when balls bounce off players' heads and fingers get smashed. If it doesn't require surgery and/or physical therapy to fix, no one notices.

Well, I'm here to bring some love for the overlooked jammed fingers.

Being the tallest on my team, I figured my one value would be in rebounding. It went okay until the 4th finger on my left hand tried to catch the basketball all by itself.

It didn't work, obviously.

For a while there, I worried that the price for my "aggressiveness" was a broken finger, but I continued to play anyway. As I said, no one cares about smashed fingers.

This is one of those annoying cases where the physical representation of the injury refuses to do your suffering justice.

As much as I would like to milk this devastating injury, it's not broken, just sore, and, according to my dad, should be back to normal in about a week.

So instead of the full-body soreness I expected, I've got a swollen finger, which makes it surprisingly hard to get dressed, type, put lotion on, and pick things up, even though the victim is my most useless finger on my non-dominant hand. Don't even get me started on tying shoes (I wore sandals today).

On behalf of all those basketball players who have suffered unacknowledged jammed fingers, I care about what you're going through. I'll spare some love for your fingers.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Earlier this week, I completed the biggest monetary transaction of my life. It wasn't for anything fancy like a new car, LASIK surgery, or a trip to London this summer to see the Harry Potter play. The transaction was a mere ploy to eradicate an annoyance.

My student loan.

Despite my lack of money and scholarships, I was leery of student loans heading into college. Even in 2006 (did I really start college 10 years ago!?!?), the debt crisis for students was dire, and I wanted no part of it. So I worked as much as I could, which was enough to cover tuition for 3/4 of my undergrad and 1/3 of my master's.

The rest of that tuition, though? I had to swallow my pride and take out those stupid loans. Thankfully, my experience didn't turn into one of those horror stories you hear about—clueless kids (and their parents) scratching their heads when they finally realize they have to pay back the hundreds of thousands of dollars (plus interest) that magically covered their college bills. My student loan debt was lower than the national average, and making payments was never a problem (in fact, I usually paid significantly more than the minimum amount required).

But still. The fact that I had student loans at all was irksome.

Over the last two years, the education I went into debt to pay for really started to pay off. (For starters, I get to laugh in the face of the "experts" who advise against majoring in a humanities field. My expert advice is that your major is only as worthless as you make it.) I have enough experience now to get decent freelance gigs. I got a full-time job doing what I love with a company that offers competitive pay and fabulous benefits . . . including profit sharing.

This year's profit sharing was record high, and it was tempting to use it for something fun, like more camera equipment and some bookcases. I could have used it to pay for a trip, which is what a lot of my coworkers do. But once I realized that my profit sharing check + some savings would probably be enough to pay off my student loan completely, I couldn't get the thought out of my head. It glimmered at me like it was the Holy Grail.

Half the office made a beeline to the bank the minute those checks were in their hands. And it wasn't long before I had all the money I needed in my checking account—all that was left to do was approve the transfer. I hesitated briefly, as I am wont to do any time I "splurge" on something, then, taking a deep breath, hit "OK."

The deed was done.

The feeling of relief came gradually. Over the next few days, the relief hit me at random times, and I would have to stop and figure out why I felt so carefree. Then I would remember: I was debtless. I'm not wealthy by anyone's standards, but right about now I'm feeling like a million bucks.

I think I'll be logging into my My Fed Loan account more than usual for the next little bit, just so I can see this:

Total loan balance: $0.00.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

From wall space to wallpaper

When I moved out the first time, I took a small stack of pictures with me to hang up on my allotted wall space. It was just a few pictures I had lying around, but they brought a little piece of home to a strange environment.

Each time I moved, I brought more pictures with me. They provided a nice spot for my eyes to land on when I needed a breather from writing papers.

When you really need a break from studying, though, the best thing to do is make a chain counting down the days you have until you're free from tyrannical papers.

Even after I graduated and moved into my first post-college apartment, I kept the picture tradition going. Only now I had enough pictures to turn my picture wall into a picture door. Having my own room helped.

When I moved into the apartment I'm in now, I put my favorite pictures in picture frames and hung them up around my living room, because that's what real adults do. But I still had a large stack of pictures on my little bookshelf, generously collecting dust. (You may not know this, but printing simple 4x6 pictures is super cheap. I continued to print my favorite pictures from time to time because I'm paranoid that I'll lose all my digital copies and that would be tragic.) I wanted to put the pictures back up just for old time's sake, but never got around to it.

Until I switched back to 9:00 a.m. church. I've been on 1:00 p.m. church for years and had grown to really love it, so the transition was brutal. But the hardest part wasn't getting up early.

It was all the extra time I had in the afternoons. 

Sadly, I have lost my ability to take marathon naps on leisurely Sunday afternoons, so I've had to find other ways to fill my time. One Sunday I was going a little stir crazy, stuck inside having already done my other go-to Sunday activities, so I decided it was time to liven up my kitchen.

After 2.5 hours of work, I was finished.

For weeks afterward pictures kept falling down due to my sticky-stuff stinginess. Still not even sure if I liked my new wallpaper, I kept re-taping pictures to the wall until I had finally used enough tape to mummify a small child.

Once I got over the shock of seeing so much color where there used to be boring whiteness, I started to enjoy it a little, just like I did in my previous apartments.

There are pictures along the entryway, too—can you see them?

I look at those pictures all the time now when I'm cooking, doing the dishes, and heating up food. I see them and think, "What an interesting life I've had."

One full of laughter, silly antics, and love.

This wallpaper is about as ghetto as it comes, but it follows me wherever I go. It's too precious to just sit in a drawer, unadmired.

If you're having a boring Sunday, here's a challenge for you: see how many pictures you can find that made it onto each of my picture walls. While you're looking, I think I'll go make some cookies.