Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Muggle remedy to allergies

A year ago, I wrote this post. I was inspired when I wrote it. Inspired, that is, by the allergies that bust out of hibernation every spring and race through my body until November.

It's a dark path I tread this this time of year. Even without allergies, Utah springs (aka still mostly winter) aren't that great, and I spend a lot of time wishing my nose into oblivion, or at least equal suffering for all.


The fact that I was contemplating evil to eradicate an obnoxious problem got me thinking that perhaps I should explore my other options a little bit more. Including one that, at the time, seemed just as annoying as the problem it was designed to solve: allergy shots.

I didn't love the idea of getting shots regularly—swallowing pills, and sometimes even gutting the symptoms out, is a lot easier. I don't really have a problem with needles; it's more the continual trips to the doctor's office that are unappealing. And I had heard that weekly shots were required for five years in order for the treatment to be effective. What if you want to go on vacation? What if you move? What if your work schedule won't allow it? What if something happens in year 3 that prevents you from continuing? It just didn't seem worth it.

Well, you shouldn't base important life decisions on hearsay. You have to do your own research before ruling something out.

Which is what my sister Kimberly did. It's always better when a trusted source does the work for you.

As soon as I learned that allergy shots aren't required weekly for the full five years (just the first 3–6 months, during the build-up phase), I sought out my own allergist. He educated me on the terrible injustice of allergy reactions being based on genetics, rather than being required for everyone, and the horrifying reality that allergies tend to get worse until you're in your mid-30s, after which they stay there until, finally, starting to dissipate around your eighth decade.

The thought of enduring a spring even worse than the one that sent me to Voldemort for help was too much. I scheduled an allergy test the next day. (Which verified that I really am allergic to many things in the weeds/trees/grass/critters categories. I felt strangely vindicated.)

The week after Thanksgiving, I got my first allergy shot. I was committed now.

It wasn't always smooth sailing. It's hard to coordinate two office visits per week during business hours. About a month in, I had to double my medication on shot days, which made me tired and killed my productivity for the rest of the day. I had a random reaction the day I hit maintenance, the wonderful day you get to graduate to only needing one shot a month. My head turned a shade of purple that would put my fellow Cooper-blooded relatives on a sweltering July day to shame, and they had to close down the shot room so they could put out the flames. (Aside from my head feeling like it was on fire, I didn't have any other exciting symptoms.) This led to an evening derailed, an $867 ER bill, and steroid medication for three days that—surprise, surprise—wouldn't let me sleep.

But there were positive signs, as well. Two people came in for their last shot ever while I was waiting in the lobby, and both told the nurses the shots had changed their lives. As we inched into February, I could already feel a significant decrease in my allergy symptoms, which typically happens later for most patients. March passed and April started, and I was still waiting for the allergy symptoms that love me so much to attack. For the first time in a long time, I started drinking in the smell of blossoms and spending time on the grass without wondering how long it would be before I would have to pay for such pleasures.

It seemed too good to be true, to be experiencing so much relief so quickly, but the following tests confirmed that what I hoped for was actually happening:

  1. Spring was in full force, and I was still very much sane.
  2. I survived a five-hour flight next to a lady with a cat.

I still haven't gotten through a visit to my parents' house without wanting to rub my nose off, but there's still time to reach that level of immunity. I have every reason to believe that some day soon I will no longer be allergic to my hometown (or rather, everything south of I-15 Exit 253. Where there is still more nature than buildings).

The moral of the story? There is a cure to annoying, non-life-threatening problems, and yes, it is worth it to take the longer, non-evil path to relief.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Career stuff

This post has been sitting in my queue for weeks, and I've lost track of how many times I've rewritten it. The primary pursuit of my 20s has been establishing a career, so I can't just not talk about it. But the problem is, I have no idea how to concisely say everything I want to.

I could start with a timeline of significant career happenings. Too boring? Fine.

Or I could write a "20 Things I Learned While Starting My Career" post. But that's been written about 8 million times already—no one wants to read that again.

Perhaps I could do a Q&A. Answer all those questions people ask when they find out what I do. Ugh, even I have no interest in reading that.

Maybe I should just get the words down and see where they take me (career lesson #15).

The lucky ones start showing signs of what they'll be when they grow up at a young age. Looking back, I can totally see that I was one of them. I beat my classmates at all the reading challenges in first grade. I subconsciously started editing signs by fifth grade. I wrote a bunch of terrible stories in elementary school and junior high (many of which starred my celebrity crushes, from Lance Bass to Chad Michael Murray).

I had other passions—music and sports, mainly—and even dabbled in other fields (like accounting—weird), but I was destined to work with words. That's what I was drawn to. That's what brought me the most satisfaction (career lesson #4). It wasn't about the money, the status, or the glamour. All I needed was words. (And punctuation.)

Career path: all set.*

*Although it did take me a while to stop hoping for the "marry rich" solution to adulthood (career lesson #436).

But the weird thing is, there's more to a career than deciding what you want to do. I grew up in a world where a job is something you have so you can get money so you can eat and take hot showers and wear clothes and all that fun stuff. Perhaps that, combined with my greater desire to be a wife and mother, is why it took me so long to grasp that a job can be more than a means to an end or a necessary evil (career lesson #53). It can be a good and meaningful part of your life.

For starters, adults aren't great at making friends, so chances are, your workplace is where most of your friends are (career lesson #28).

My first business trip. I was still green enough to think that was what adults actually called them.

A field trip to Top Golf. My family thinks working for USANA means you just play all the time. If only that were true. Let me just say, there's a reason my blogging frequency has dropped drastically over the last six months. 

And secondly, if your job is the most important part of your life, then you'd better make sure it's a good one (career lesson #41). That you're doing something you enjoy, that excites you, with people you can easily tolerate. Because if you don't like your job and you don't have something pretty significant to make up for it, then you'll find yourself constantly wishing for something to fill the void (career lesson #40).

Editors are a bit of a dying breed, so I had to fight for the right to be one (career lesson #42). Not all of my editing peers get that chance, even if their skills are seriously impressive. But somehow I found a way to make a living using the skills I want to use. (And I don't have to teach! I'll forever be grateful for that.) I've been very fortunate.

There's no way to say this without sounding cheesy, so maybe read this part really fast, before you have a chance to roll your eyes: I found my "calling." Editing is what I was meant to do, and I have zero regrets about choosing this career.

And, I think that's all I really need to say. Hooray. I'm kicking this thing off my queue.

Friday, March 31, 2017

A break in Florida with my people

The occasional vacating of your life, breaking away from routine, is a health benefit I think we can all get behind. It's even better when you spend your time away from normalcy with "your people." People who get you. People who share your interests. People you've known for a long, long time.

I'm fresh off a week spent with three distinct groups of people that others may not have enjoyed spending time with, but who made the trip extra special for me.

Group 1: Editors

Despite our reputation for being rule-abiding sticklers, boring introverts, and proud grammar Nazis, editors are actually a pretty fun group of people. (And let's not refer to us as grammar Nazis anymore—we've decided to use "grammando" instead. Come on, help me get this trending.)

ACES is a special conference. It's a place where I can get a "word nerd" pin and everyone around me covets it. Finding typos in PowerPoint presentations is a competition rather than something that just makes you roll your eyes (yes, typos wriggle their way even into editors' presentations). It's the best opportunity I have all year to commiserate with, learn from, and buddy up with people who understand what it's like to have a career dedicated to words. Half the world thinks we can be replaced with software, but we know there's more to our jobs than properly punctuating sentences. Editing is much more of an art than it is a science, and it involves far more people management than most people realize. But my people? They get it.

While last year editors were abuzz with the news that AP would lowercase "internet," this year was all about the partial acceptance of the singular "they" (the "they" that refers to someone who wishes to remain anonymous or who prefers "they" as their personal pronoun). Despite being in use for hundreds of years—even Shakespeare used the singular they!—and despite most editors being completely on board with adopting it fully, so many people are still clinging to the "it's not grammatically correct!" argument. But the fact is, language changes—even *gasp* the meaning of words—and nothing else has come anywhere close to filling the generic pronoun need. Most editors are going to keep fighting for singular they's complete acceptance, even if it means we'll have to pass the torch on to the next generation of editors.

This is from one of my favorite sessions—Kory Stamper's reading of her new book Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries. Kory makes my people look cool. (I'm in this picture, FYI. And I do not look cool.)

Chicago also finally took out the hyphen in email, but I guess that's not quite as exciting because that's what we've all been doing anyway. The announcement still got a pretty raucous cheer, though.

But lest you think editing conferences are full of happy friends who agree on everything, certain debates can get dicey. Particularly those between AP and Chicago frenemies.

The mug that inspired this picture says "4 Copy Editors Killed in Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence." Sorry, Nick, I'm pretty sure I'm winning. My Chicago sunglasses give me superpowers. And Chicago is better. Obviously.

And if you get to check out a bookstore and walk along a lovely beach with another one of your people, you count yourself very fortunate.

I was sad to see the first part of my trip end, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that my next "group" of people was on their way to pick me up.

Group 2: Mom and Dad

When I casually mentioned that I was going to make a stop at Harry Potter World while I was in Florida, my parents pulled out their phones and immediately started working out how they could meet me there. Before I could really process what was happening, we had a mini vacation planned, just the three of us.

Not everyone would be thrilled to hang out with their parents at an amusement park, but I've always liked my parents more than is really normal. And I think I'm old enough now that I don't have to be embarrassed by that anymore. Besides, my dad is super handy to have around for these types of things.

Group 3: Potterheads

My parents dropping everything to go to Harry Potter World for the third time should give you a little insight into why I am the way that I am. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the Harry Potter experience while I was at Universal, and my parents—and the bajillion other fans crammed into that little park—were 100% supportive of that. Of all the fandoms to be a part of, Harry Potter is one of the best.

Like every other witch and wizard, we started our journey to Hogwarts in London.

We tried to pay Sirius Black a visit, but for some reason he was out. 😭😭😭

So we proceeded to Diagon Alley. Walking through that busted brick wall is seriously like stepping into the movie. You're walking innocently along in the mundane Muggle world, and then BAM. You're in the wizarding world.

I was too intimidated by the goblins to ask for a withdrawal, but the ride was cool! I wish we had been able to go on it more than once, but it was broken down the second and third time we went back. I suspect nargles were involved.

After buying Sirius Black's wand (I now own seven wands—eight if you count my remote control wand), I was morally obligated to add something from  Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to my ever-growing Harry Potter collection. I'm sure that U-No-Poo will come in handy at work. (Don't worry, guys—they're basically just M&M's.)

Then we had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. I love saying that. I gave the cold Butterbeer a try, and it was tasty. But I still like the frozen Butterbeer better. Just don't drink them both in one day—you might get drunk from sugar.

The Hogwarts Express also feels like the real deal. Even standing in line at King's Cross Station is cool.

However, I was forced to take a brief break from being a wizard to figure out how to best word this sign so as to not confuse its American audience. I don't really know how to turn off my "edit" mode.

ANYWAY, back to Hogwarts. Dumbledore was nice enough to let me visit again.

This is the only part of the park where you remember you're not actually in Hogsmeade. The snow on the rooftops certainly looks cozy, but the effect isn't powerful enough to counteract the Florida heat.

I also tried to sneak into the Ministry of Magic,

but that was pushing my luck. Even Dumbledore couldn't persuade them to let me in.

And with that, the fantasy ended. Soon after, we left Harry's world behind.

The good feeling of being amongst my type of people disappeared the next morning when I was seated next to a lady with a cat on our five-hour flight home. But I guess I had it coming—the week leading up to that moment was perfect, so karma had to even things out a bit. (Luckily, my allergy shots are doing their job; otherwise, I would have been a sneezy mess of itchy misery the whole time.)

So, this year's word nerd vacation was a soaring success. Can't wait to see how next year turns out.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One life lesson

February 16 is a bit of a dark day for my family. Eighteen years ago my Grandma Rushton passed away, and then three years later to the day we lost my brother's best friend. We've got death anniversaries spread throughout nearly every month of the year now, but February 16 has cemented itself in my mind as "the" dark day, probably because it the first time I experienced a loss of this magnitude. These deaths were also the hardest, the most unexpected, and came far too soon.

I knew my Grandma Rushton as someone who had one of the most bedecked houses/yards in Payson during Christmas season, who gave wonderful gifts, and who made every holiday special. And her cherry tomatoes and homemade rolls were almost too good for my little body too handle—on at least one occasion Grandma had to come out to the tomato patch to get a hug from me before we left her house.

But I never really knew her when she was healthy—she died of cancer when I was 11—so most of what I know about her now I've picked up from stories. It's enough to elevate her to sainthood: mother of eight biological children (seven of whom are boys) and to anyone else who needed safety and love, the first person I think of whenever a Relief Society teacher asks us to think of someone who characterizes service, a fierce competitor, someone with a diverse collection of talents who wasn't afraid to use them.

I'm fortunate to know her as well as I do, but what I really wish is that I had had more one-on-one time with her. Something of my own to solidify her specific-to-me presence in my life.

Fortunately, I'm not completely deprived; one memory keeps resurfacing, and it's time I wrote it down.

I was about 10 and it was Super Bowl Sunday (I think). Football was the most boring thing in the universe at the time, so after we wrote down our score predictions, a group of us shut ourselves up in Grandma and Grandpa's room to play Hand and Foot. My sister Tiffany and I were on one team, my cousin Shamra and her friend Carrie on the other.

About halfway through our game, Grandma came in to check on us. Tiffany and I were winning, and at least one of us was ready to go out. Shamra and Carrie, on the other hand, didn't even have any canastas yet. Not wanting to be mean, we debated giving them one more chance to get some points.

Grandma passed on a lifetime of card-playing wisdom in two words: "I wouldn't."

We didn't listen. And we paid for it.

Shamra or Carrie picked up the pile on their next turn, which was stacked so high it kept falling over, and ended up beating us by about 6,000 points.

When Dad and his brothers joke about fearing their mom's scolding more than possibly bleeding to death because of some injury caused by stupidity, I believe them. When people tell stories about Grandma taking chili over to a neighbor in need, I'm not surprised. But when the subject of Grandma's merciless card-playing comes up, I know they're speaking truth, because I learned it from Grandma first-hand.

I haven't taken pity on an opponent ever since. Grandma says.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Some thoughts from my latest Harry Potter re-read

I have this fear that I'll eventually have read Harry Potter so many times that the joy they bring into my life will disintegrate. It's one reason I put forth so much energy in restraining myself from diving into the books again whenever I feel the urge. (Every few hours or so.)

But if there's one thing I can count on, it's that the need to read Harry Potter will eventually become too distracting to ignore. I have to allow myself this treat occasionally—my mental health demands it.

The "wizzy sense" started hitting me hard at the beginning of the year. My family started a Harry Potter movie marathon around New Years, and I finished it on my own after life went back to normal. Thoughts like "You've never gone so long without reading the Harry Potter series—you might have actually forgotten stuff by now" and "You did say you would allow yourself to read whatever you wanted this year" and "You actually do need this in your life right now" kept flitting through my mind.

So I gave in. And turns out, I did need Harry Potter right now. We're undergoing some pretty major changes at work, which means my workload has doubled and I'm working through some new challenges. My nightly escapades into Harry Potter's world have been a steady comfort and de-stressing mechanism, something I needed to keep me sane.

As for my fear that the Harry Potter magic would be watered down on—for some books—my 12th read, I needn't have worried. When you've got a story as good as this masterpiece, each reading experience will be a little bit different. Because you're different. That's the mark of a great book—it just keeps giving.

Some other thoughts I had during this re-read:

I've changed a lot as a reader in the last 3.5 years. Since the last time I read the series, I've really upped my reading game. My to-read pile just got bigger during the month or so I was dedicated to Harry Potter, and I felt guilty neglecting it for something I'd already experienced several times. Which made reading Harry Potter both a sacrifice and an indulgence. It also meant that for the first time ever, I didn't try to stretch the reading experience out as long as possible. Instead I let myself plow through it without restraint, which felt a bit like eating the forbidden ice cream straight from the carton. I'm also hoping that knowing I have so many other good reads waiting for me will make the Harry Potter Withdrawals less intense this time. Although I know the crushing feeling of loss will be unavoidable tonight.

This is the first time I've read the series during the winter. In the past, I've always read them in the summer and fall; I don't think I've ever read Harry Potter during a snowstorm. And what could be cozier than reading Harry Potter on a snowy day next to a cheery fireplace with a steaming mug of hot cocoa in your hand? Nothing, I tell you. It was also great to have a reliable source to stave off the gloom of January and February. BYU basketball usually does that for me, but not this year.

New(ish) character standouts. Every time I read the series, I appreciate different characters more, or I understand old favorites differently. This time, Kreacher stood out. His constant mutterings to himself are hilarious, guys, especially when Hermione is trying to be nice to him. And then he makes my heart grow three sizes when Harry finally starts being nice to him and you see how much he thrives.

Sirius' death still is, and probably always will be, the hardest death for me. I don't know why I keep putting myself through it.

Professor McGonagall is my hero—I want to be just like her when I grow up. She's a perfect example of something you appreciate more as you get older. I didn't care all that much about the teachers when I was a kid, but I can't get enough of her now. Maybe I love her so much because we're pretty similar in some ways, but I've got a looooong way to go before I achieve her level of awesomeness.

And then there's Ron. The movies do a huge disservice to him by making him a bumbling sidekick and giving all his good lines to Hermione. He has so much to offer that so often gets brushed aside. It's usually Ron, not Hermione, who is first to say to Harry, "We're coming with you, mate." He's a good friend in ways Hermione isn't because he's not a bossypants. He is the sun that makes everything better, something that becomes blatantly obvious whenever he's not around. And his sense of humor—especially during stressful situations—is fantastic, something the movies are never able to capture despite relegating him to the role of comic relief. ("I don't know how to break it to you, but they might have noticed we broke into Gringotts." Ron, I love you so much.) Ron isn't perfect, but he's real. It makes me angry sometimes how much the movies (and even the fandom) undervalue him.

And while I'm on the topic of undervalued movie-Weasleys—Ginny. That is one fabulous character (another one I want to be like when I grow up), and what the movies did to her is a travesty.

It is possible for me to love a book (other than book 7) more than book 3. I didn't think any of the books would knock book 3 out of its solid spot in second place, but this time book 4 did it. It's fascinating to me how much my favorites order changes with each re-read. For instance, last time it went like this: 7, 3, 5, 4, 6, 1, 2. This time all but three changed spots: 7, 4, 3, 6, 5, 1, 2. Like I said earlier, each re-read is a new experience.

The 2013 order. I'm too sad to take a picture of the 2017 order.

J.K. Rowling will go down in history as using more ellipses than any author, living or dead. She tones it down by book 5, but man all those dot-dot-dots bugged me.

It's a post–Cursed Child/Fantastic Beasts world. I refuse to accept Cursed Child as canon, but it was interesting reading the series—nearly 10 years after the last book was published—with some fresh HP material to consider. I paid more attention to Dumbledore's backstory in particular, which the Fantastic Beasts movie has given more depth to. Especially relating to Ariana. And now that we know the adorable Newt Scamander, I am 1000% OK with Luna marrying his grandson. So perfect.

And with that, it's over again. I'm a little heartbroken. Again. But this isn't really the end. (And let's be honest—I'm never far from Harry Potter's world anyway.) I'll be back at it before too long.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: The book that changed my life

I've read 500+ books in my twenties. Many of them had a powerful effect on me, but one stands out as being the most formative: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain (which came out five years ago today).

In every personality quiz I've taken, my introvert rating has been at least 95 percent. I've always known I was more of an introvert than an extrovert, but it wasn't until I read this book that I really understood what that meant.

We live in a society that favors extrovert traits. We're told to be assertive if we want to be promoted, to be friendly if we want to be liked, to be charismatic if we want to be remembered.

For years, I tried to develop these traits. I made goals to smile at least once every hour in hopes that it would make it easier to be nice to people (or at least give them an incentive to approach me so I wouldn't have to reach out to them). I worried endlessly about the shy image I was portraying to all but those who knew me best. I worked myself to exhaustion just trying to fake my way through a party. Oftentimes the effort of getting myself out the door would drain what little storage I had for social energy.

Try as I might, I never morphed into what American society deemed an ideal personality type. I made significant improvements in overcoming my shyness, but I was essentially still me. The one who wasn't quite right in the head because she just wanted to hang out at home every Friday night.

Then I read this book.

Gradually, I stopped feeling like I needed to "fix" my introvert flaws. I quit wasting precious energy on becoming something I'm not. I finally learned how to fully embrace the person I am.

Once I understood why I am the way I am, I started paying attention to the things that energized and drained me. I figured out what my limits were, which helped me know when I needed to push myself and when I needed a quiet night at home more. I allowed myself to gravitate toward activities I felt more comfortable in (sports and games rather than whatever the "cool kids" were doing) to make the most of my social time.

Finding that unique balance I needed did more to strengthen me as a person than almost anything else has. I found myself in Quiet, and I've been much happier in my own skin ever since.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Cracking the independence illusion

You may have noticed that adulting is hard. All it takes is a trip to Jiffy Lube for a routine oil change to make you want to go home and hide under the bed for two years. (Why are you asking me if I want to replace the air filter? Do I actually need all these services you are trying to sell to me? Oh my gosh, is my car going to explode because of my negligence? I'M NOT READY TO MAKE SUCH DIFFICULT CHOICES DADDY SAVE ME.)

So you're not immune to the crushing realities of adulthood. But generally, you like to think you have a firm grasp on it. You figured out how to handle car challenges, survived college, and you're no stranger to the world it threw you out into.

But as you get closer and closer to being 100% independent, yet another one of the ideals you held about adulthood proves to be false. 

One hundred percent independence? Yeah, that's impossible.

You may pay for all of your wants and needs with your own money. You may have your own health insurance. You may be debt free. You may have complete control over where you live and how you live. You may answer to no one but yourself. But you will never be fully independent.

Don't believe me? Keep reading.

You will get sick. So sick, perhaps, that simple chores like laundry and dishes will temporarily be beyond your capabilities.

Your car will break down, or get totaled, and you will have to rely on others to get around, like a helpless teenager.

You will find yourself in situations you are not prepared to deal with. You could get an unexpected lay-off or promotion, someone close to you could die unexpectedly, you could become unsatisfied with your life, or a million other things could happen that will force you to acknowledge that what you have isn't enough to help you claw your way back to normalcy.

But when you swallow your pride and start asking for help, advice, and support, you will find that people would much rather jump in and save the day than allow you to be stranded at work because your car won't start. And while every "Call me if you need anything!" may sound insincere at first, people are genuinely happy when you cash in on their offer.

It's not rocket science, just life; true independence is unachievable—we're meant to do this thing together.