Sunday, October 16, 2016

Life Isn't Perfect...As Told By Iceland and 2016 In General

Let's not sugarcoat it: 2016 has been a doozy. And I've been a bit of a wreck. Like, as in last week I couldn't find the exact item that I went to Target, then Costco, then Walmart for....so I went home and face planted on my couch and cried. Nursing school has made me cry more times than I can count and most days I feel deeply exhausted, the kind that literally nothings feels like it can remedy. I am switching between day shifts and night shifts at the hospital for my clinical rotations, which makes me feel crabby and tired all the time. Sometimes I come home so exhilarated and in awe that I get to do what I do and people will actually pay me. Other days I come home, wide-eyed, and feel like I've made a horrible mistake. A sign of a well-adjusted adult, am I right?

For all the reasons this year has been hard (mostly school and a nerve-racking apartment upheaval in the middle of a hellish month, among other things), I also know that I will look back on this year with fondness. As I've gotten older, I've begun to appreciate the nuances of what makes adulthood precious. Every season of my life is amazing and difficult and trying and exhausting all at the same time. My growing pains come in different forms every year, but looking back I am so grateful for all of them.

This August, Eric, Emma and I went to Europe. It took almost two years to plan and save up for. One night, we were talking about going to Iceland and the next, we were sitting on the floor in Barnes and Noble with books and must-do lists sprawled out around us. Emma immediately found the only job she could that would hire a 14 year old at a pizza place. Eric and I scrimped and saved and every so often, we would all have a pow wow to discuss how much money we'd saved, how much more we needed, should we camp? Could we afford to fly to London too? How about Ireland? What's the best car rental company? Etc, etc.

We had spent so much time--so much time--planning and obsessing over our trip that I was afraid it wouldn't live up to our hopes. I mean, when you put so much energy into a big trip, you're going to get your expectations high, right?



Newsflash: it wasn't perfect. Of course it wasn't. Family trips are almost never perfect. We were crammed inside a van, sleeping on the side of the road for nine days in Iceland. Emma needed personal space. Eric was sick of eating freeze dried food every night. I felt like the mom trying to make everyone happy.


One day everyone seemed particularly crabby. We drove for hours and ended up in a little fishing village (which happens to be the second largest "city" in Iceland). We couldn't agree where to park or what to do for dinner and everyone seemed hungry, tired, and bugged with each other. We were standing in this town square, exhausted and not even looking at each other, when I felt a sudden searing pain in my thigh. I looked up and there was this car full of Icelandic teenage boys, one leaning out the window with an airsoft gun pointed right at me. They started laughing and drove away quickly.


Eric was in no mood. Not that day. Before I even registered what had happened, Eric was bolting down the street towards the car. I'm sure they were terrified of this giant Mexican man running towards them in the street. Do you think they'd ever seen a Mexican? Who knows. But I vaguely thought as I watched him running towards this car while everyone in the square watched that this was actually pretty funny and I would laugh at it later, but not right then.


It seemed to lighten up the mood. I don't know why. It was just ridiculous and silly. We went across the street and ate--what else?--Mexican food. It tasted nothing like Mexican but it was delicious. Everything tastes pretty good after four straight meals of freeze dried chili macaroni with beef.


The next day after another long day of driving, we found a remote spot to pull over and sleep the night. We noticed in a crevasse right next to our van a small but deep glacial river. "Hey," I said, "we could really use a morale boost right now. Who wants to jump in this ice cold river in the rain?"


So we did. And then we laughed about it all night while snuggling close together and playing egyptian ratscrew and eating freeze dried beef stroganoff, then fell asleep to the rhythmic rain drops on the van.

Honestly, if you're not careful in Iceland, you'll end up like this Chinese family

Obviously the trip had it's ups and downs. It was ridiculous for me to try and manage everyone's emotions and make the trip as perfect as possible. Sometimes we were cranky, sometimes we were elated. Sometimes we just needed to pull over and take a nap, sometimes we couldn't peel our eyes off the scenery.

Couldn't pronounce it when it erupted 6 years ago, can't pronounce it now

And that's OK. The ups and down and peaks and valleys in life are OK. You don't have to prove to anyone that everything is perfect all the time. Even your most fabulous, fun, glittering adventures can have some meh  or even crap moments, too.


When I look back on our trip, I can't help but break out into a grin. It wasn't always perfect, but I will never forget the amazing adventures we had, things we saw, people we met, and memories we created. We explored roaring waterfalls from the front, the top, and even the inside. We literally yelled "another one!" every 10 seconds because Iceland is basically one large waterfall. We almost got blown off windy cliffs with views that will make you believe in God. We hiked to hidden natural hot springs for a swim and then realized that sleeping in a van and trying to change out of wet, muddy clothes is the worst. We made a homemade clementine cake, like the one in Walter Mitty, and hauled it all the way to Iceland to ceremoniously eat, only to discover it was disgusting.



One evening we spent in a town called Hofn, which happened to be one of our favorite places. We found the perfect hill overlooking the ocean to perch for the night and went out exploring. The wind was so brutal that it was literally, and I do mean literally, blowing us over. We found cover in a deep trench where we met a german photographer who was also seeking shelter from the wind. We chatted (more like tried to yell over the sound of the wind) while watching a truly stunning sunset. It was simultaneously chaotic and peaceful. I'll never forget that. We finally faced the wind to go back to our van and Emma and I ended up full-on peeing our pants from laughing so hard while trying to hold on to a pole so we wouldn't be whipped off a cliff and into the ocean. We were so terrified that the van would blow away and also, we were uncomfortable in our pee pants, so we left and found a legitimate campsite on lower ground where we could clean up and sleep soundly.


The bar in Walter Mitty. Now it's a boutique. 
We took a boat ride around a glacial lagoon and Emma fell in love with the Italian tour guide. We found a stunning and charming tiny fishing village at the edge of a fjord with bright colored houses and dozens of waterfalls spilling over the edges of the cliff into the valley. We played with snapchat filters one night in our tiny squished bed until we were crying from laughing so hard. Every night, we would find a place to set up for the night (a waterfall, a grassy hill, a mossy lava field) and would set up our card table and camping chairs, boil our water, shove away our suitcases, get in our jammies, make our bed, serve dinner and get cozy in our makeshift bed. We took a boat ride in the town where the Greenland bar scene in Walter Mitty was filmed and then found the bar and tried to recreate the scene. We ate ham and cheese sandwiches for every lunch in the back of the van and finished it off with Iceland candy and chocolate. On our long driving days, we would put on our warmest and comfiest clothes, crank a Harry Potter audiobook or our Icelandic playlist and weave in and out of fjords and up bumpy mountain passes. One night, we discovered a random soccer field in the middle of nowhere, underneath a glacier, and played a game of soccer with two Icelandic 9-year-old boys. I almost cried it was so fun and memorable and happy, a true Lizzie McGuire "this is what dreams are made of" moment.

Back in Reykjavik, the hip, trendy capitol of Iceland, we got lost and ended up on a random bus going who knows where, sitting next to a wasted middle aged man while trying not to breathe for fear of waking him up. The bus driver didn't even know where we were going. I was sure we'd never see our family--or America--again.

Sometimes life is like eating mussels: yucky


We flew to London to be with our family there and ended up spending most of our time watching the Olympics and eating. We flew to Ireland with our cousin Molly and ate lots of good food, good ice cream, and basically did nothing but chill. We sat in a bar one night and drank Sprite while listening to live folk music and talking about life. On the way back to London, we showed up to the airport 10 minutes before takeoff and ended up bolting towards the plane on the runway while security called the pilot to stop because some idiot Americans were desperate to make their flight. Emma and I saw Wicked one night and cried at the end and then met Molly and Eric for a midnight snack at Shake Shack in Covent Garden.

On our way home from London, we had a quick overnight layover in Reykjavik and decided not to get a hotel, because "sleeping in an airport is an experience you're supposed to have in your twenties." Nope. It's one of those things that simultaneously makes you feel young and also ages you tremendously. We literally slept on a linoleum floor right next to check-in under a bright light next to a bar that was blasting music. I got up sometime around 3, sleepy but uncomfortable, groggy and puffy-eyed, and walked outside to see if I could by some miracle see the northern lights. The odds were unlikely since it was still early in the season, the airport lights were bright, and the sky was cloudy. I leaned against a road barrier, only half awake, pleading with the universe for this one thing I hoped for. Please give me this magical ending to my trip. 

I didn't see the northern lights.

I sat outside for a while before giving up and trudging back inside.

Such is life. You win some, you lose some.




Sunday, October 18, 2015

Rachael vs. The Airplane

If you know me, you probably know that almost nothing scares me more than airplanes. As in, writing that sentance just made my stomach churn and now I've lost my appetite for my delicious key lime pie and I won't be able to fall asleep tonight and I'll be exhausted at work tomorrow from the constant worry of my next plane ride that's months and months from now and I actually, literally feel like throwing up. Let me tell you about how I came to be absolutely, irrationally scared of flying. I can remember the moment I started to hate it.

I wasn't always such a baby about it. The first plane ride I remember was from Salt Lake to Knoxville and I sat in the window seat and was so blown away by how cool the sensation was. I was probably four or five and vividly remember being mesmerized. For like, twelve years, I actually liked flying and didn't mind the hassle of air travel. (Maybe it's because I'm a jaded, hardened adult {just kidding} [kind of] that I just. can't. even. deal with it.)

But then.

I was flying (again) to Knoxville to visit the Tennessee cousins with my sister Emma and it was a genuinely fun bonding experience. I had just graduated high school and Emma and I spent the entire flight mimicking the Delta flight attendant in the safety video that says "Smoking is not allowed." As we descended toward Cincinatti for a layover, the plane just circled for the longest time with what felt like really steep turns. Now I know that it was nothing more than a minor traffic hold up (although knowing that doesn't stop me from clenching my seat in sheer terror every time it happens) but I remember looking out the window (again) and thinking, nope nope nope nope nopenopenopenope.

Honestly, I can't figure out how that experience turned a cool cat into a weeping puddle of tears, but it did. All of a sudden, I was just scared to fly. I can't make a logical connection. But a fear of flying, I think, is 99% illogical. Before you launch into how much safer flying is than driving and how few planes crash compared to all the ones that land safely, etc., etc......save your breath. I don't care. The statisitcs are all well and good until the doors are latched shut and you're locked into your imminent death.

I mean, you can use your imagination to work out what there is to be afraid of. I don't need to spell it out to you. Big metal tube, thousands of feet in air, unpredictable weather, mechanical issues. And so on. The usual suspects.

Not a pretty picture

I think probably the next flight I took was when I went to China several months later, and to be brutally honest, the anticipation of having to fly home ruined my summer the tiniest bit. The flight home was mostly uneventful except for IT WASN'T AND I ALMOST DIED. OK maybe not, but there was a storm in Salt Lake that night and we almost rerouted to Boise but the pilot decided to play puppet master instead and toy with our lives by landing in the middle of Hell itself.

The turbulence was so brutal that the carts and flight attendants were being thrown to the floor. I was actually crying in my seat, eyes shut, mourning the fact that I would die before seeing my family again and my friend Kindra was peacefully sleeping across the aisle from me. I still can't believe a person can sleep while her head is being whiplashed around like a rag doll. I almost fell down the terminal 2 escalator in front of my family because of my jelly legs and chattering teeth.

Let me lay out a typical trip for an aviophobe like me. First, you explore any other form of transportation possible. Wedding in California? Even if the plane tickets are cheaper than gas, you'll absolutely insist on the 12 hour drive, although the stretch from Vegas to Barstow makes you want to claw your eyes out. Fancy a weekend trip to Scotland from London? One word: trains. Which, by the way, I love. I wish there were more trains in the States.

Anyway, if you can't avoid flying (a necessary evil sometimes), you will spend the weeks before your trip agonizing, weeping, and anticipating every possible worse case scenario. Every time you are on the highway when a plane descends for landing, you will scream and squel (screuel?) and watch in fascination. You will become oddly obsessed with planes and plane crashes. You will watch them on YouTube until your husband has to turn off the computer and tuck your simultaneously fragile and adrenaline-pumped body in bed while you rock yourself to sleep. The night before your flight, you WILL melt down in the candy aisle and openly cry while leaning against a stack of Peach-O's, prompting your husband to make a confused call to your parents and consult the possibility of an emergency overnight Xanax prescription. You'll make polite conversation with whoever is driving you to the airport but in your head you'll want everyone to just shut up so you can concentrate on not dying.

I should note here that all of the usual irritants of air travel are wildly exacerbated when you are afraid of flying. More specifically, airports. What can be an annoying experience turns into a downright hell hole. Again, my breath just quickened thinking about it. The noise, the rushing, the announcements, the gate TV's, the flashing departure and arrival boards. CAN EVERYONE PLEASE BE QUIET? I CAN'T TELL IF I'M HAVING A HEART ATTACK WITH ALL THE NOISE. Of course, my voice comes out in a jittery gurgle at check in, at security, at the gate.

I remember my mom and I flying to Amsterdam a few years ago out of the worst little airport in London called Luton. Of course, our flight was early in the morning and in typical Ely fashion, we showed up late. Because we were rushing and I didn't feel like I had time to adequately prepare mentally, I was especially freaking out. We were in a long line at check in, like, 10 minutes before boarding, and an announcement kept blaring about extra security measures and being cautious about unattended bags, which in my mind equated to bomb bomb bomb BOMB BOMB we're going to die! Naturally. I was so keyed up and I felt like the whole airport was collectively keyed up too and since everyone was nervous and scared in my mind, obviously something terrible was going to happen. In reality, I'm sure everyone was calm except me.

For precisely that reason, I always insist on showing up to the airport several hours early. Check in. Breathe. Security. Breathe. Obligatory Cinnabon treat. Breathe. Reading People magazine at gate. Breathe breathe breathe. I showed up to the airport in Beijing literally five hours before takeoff and ended up sitting on my luggage forever just waiting for check-in to open.

Takeoff and landing are always the worst parts. Once we've been cruising for a good hour, I can finally relax a little bit and the color returns to my cheeks slightly. I'm sure this is because biologically speaking, your body can only handle so much adrenaline. I have legitimately wondered if this much stress on my body will kill me before I turn 50.

During takeoff, while everyone is getting comfy and taking off their shoes and putting on their eye masks, I am sitting on the edge of my seat, shoes still on, hands on armrests, ready to spring into action when the emergency evacuation happens. I am full on in fight or flight mode, my heart racing, sweat gathering in my armpits, the whole shebang.

Although Eric has now strongly encouraged me to practice breathing techniques and listening to those wind chimey relaxation noise makers on my phone during takeoff, so now you'll see me on the edge of my seat, shoes on, hands on armrests with headphones jammed in my ears, rocking back and forth.


Relying on my trusty meditation harmonium

I used to take sleeping pills during taxi in hopes of conking out and missing the whole ordeal, but since I get so wound up anyway, it just makes me nervous and groggy. Also, I realized that--of course--I can't fall asleep. That would be irresponsible. It's my civic duty to be alert and listening for any chimes, dings, engine failures, or other signs of death so I can alert the pilot and save the plane. And did you know that worrying yourself sick during takeoff actually reduces the chances of crashing? Yeah, it's a thing.

One time, flying home from India surrounded by all of my friends, I decided to take double the dose of Ambien so I could sleep double the time and be double relaxed. The next hour was spent sobbing, wondering why the plane was cruising down a fiery spiral staircase to the ocean, asking the flight attendants why a sheep had to die to make my fleece blanket and why she had three eyes, making weepy declarations like "my dad sings me this song every night before bed!" and generally being the object of everyone's amusement. A YouTube sensation in the making.

So I never took sleeping pills again. I've learned that it's better to be worried and alert than worried and dopey.

My *feelings* toward air travel become a lot messier because I. LOVE. TO. TRAVEL. There is nothing that sparks my excitement more than planning an adventure, most of which are expensive and overseas. Sometimes I feel like.....what's the point of life if I'm not saving up for and planning my next trip? The sign of an emotionally well-adjusted adult, right?

Anyway, this is obviously another post for another day, but now that air travel is so available to everyone, how can I not take advantage of that to see as much of this beautiful earth as I can? I know some people avoid flying altogether, and I'm pretty darn proud of myself for not letting my fear stop me from living my life. If it means taking twenty years off my life (I really wasn't kidding about that), or if I actually do die in a freak aviation accident, at least my life will have been full of adventure. Not to be melodramatic, but the legitimate, all-consuming anxiety I get from flying feels like a sacrifice. First world problems, right? But at least I'm sort of facing my fears.

I just read a book called Cockpit Confidential. You've probably seen it in an airport bookstore. It is genuinely one of the most enjoyable, hilarious books I've read. Like, laying on your bed stifling guffaws because everyone else is asleep hilarious. It's written by a pilot (who's also a fantastic writer) and it answers any and every question you could ever have about flying, in layman's terms. It didn't necesarily make me less afraid of flying (logic, remember?) but it made me more aware of the whole "air travel theater" as the author calls it, so it's not such a foreign experience.

So in conclusion, if you're like me, I would recommend Cockpit Confidential, I would recommend those cheesy relaxation apps on your phone, but please stay away from Ambien and YouTube videos of plane crashes. You will only have yourself to blame.





Wednesday, January 7, 2015

About a book

Books, book, books. If you don't know me or haven't bothered to look at my header, I love reading. Fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, self-help, magazines, whatever. I love 'em all.

I think I have always liked to read, but it definitely did not become magical to me until Mrs. Melville turned off the lights one day in 3rd grade, had us gather around a chair, and started reading out loud an up and coming book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Well, obviously after she finished the book, my brother and I made my mom go to Costco to get Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. I remember us waiting for her to pull into the driveway and then running out, yanking the passenger door open and grabbing the books, arguing about who would read the second one first (it was me. It was always me.)

And so began my love for books. When a new Harry Potter book came out, there were only three or four nights of staying up late, feverishly running my eyes back and forth across the page before it was over. So I read lots of other books to fill in the gaps.

Taming that wild stallion into an HP lover
 P.S. Remember my favorite birthday gift of all time? I whipped them out last summer and read the whole series again along with my mom, my best friend, and my husband, all of whom had not partaken of the wizarding world until then. I converted all of them at the same time. I truly, honestly, proudly think of that as one of my happiest accomplishments.

There have been many books over the years. I know this is trite, but I don't know how else to say it: they really are an escape for me. Whether my day is stressful or worry-free, I am always in the mood for a good book. It transports me out of my world for just an hour or so, so even if I am stuck in the same old routine, I don't feel stuck. I don't have to stay put to stay put. 

I am the most obsessive reader. When I am reading a good book, I can hardly think of anything else. I count down the minutes at class or work so I can go snuggle in my bed and become a part of my book world again.

The characters are like, my honest-to-goodness friends. As in sometimes I lay in bed and leak tears on my sheets if I think about my character being sad.

And I always, always have to give myself a few days after reading a book before starting a new one so my fiction friends don't feel betrayed and so I can mentally prepare to move on.

Also, real talk: when I read lots of books, especially that are written beautifully, I find myself thinking grand existential thoughts that are eloquently written out in my mind. I could be mentally criticizing my hair and turn it into a Shakespearean garbled monologue. Don't judge.


Got my book, got my blankie, awake before anyone else...does it get better than this?


When Eric and I first got married, we were living in an apartment with no TV and no WiFi except in the lounge, which was conveniently close enough to go do homework in, but just a little too much of a hassle to walk down to just to browse the inter webs for no good reason but boredom. So I read quite a few books and it was heaven. In the summer, I would take a walk every night to this little canal in our neighborhood and just sit by the water and read until it got dark. 

This year, we have lived in two apartments with WiFi and our apartment now has a nice big TV with cable. Guess what? I haven't read very many books this year. Did Netflix do this to me? Ah, Netflix. While I love reading, I have discovered that watching Netflix is just...easier. So I tend to resort to that when I am tired or bored. I don't even want to admit how many shows I have watched all the way through on Netflix this year. Do you know how many books I could have read in that time? 

So I am trying to change that, without going crazy pyscho let's-get-rid-of-all-our-technology. I think they call that strategy self-discipline. 

Reading for work. Not a bad gig. 

Anyway, I think I have found the perfect book to remind myself why I love to read more than watch TV. I have been reading it nonstop this week. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. My mom has been telling me to read it for years and I have to say I have been missing out. 

I am not quite done with it, but if I may be so bold as to put it in my top 5 favorite books already...well, then...I will. 

It doesn't have such an exciting plot. It's a coming of age story where the beauty lies in the writing style, the meticulous description of early 20th century New York, and the flawed characters you come to love and identify with, no matter how rich or poor, or young or old you are. 

I can't remember the last time I was this swept up in a book that I was dreading the end of. Which reminds me that reading truly is one of the greatest joys in my life. 

Reading The Economist one morning in Ireland and feeling like a real life adult. Strangely, also feeling like an old pipe-blowing british man who wears tweed blazers with elbow patches.

But enough with this Shakespearean garbled monologue. I have a book to finish. And a stack of books to read after that. 


Expectations vs. reality and new year resolutions and stuff


So here's how the new year's resolution thing usually works around these here Rachael parts:

I publicly lament the whole thing ("they never work/they're not realistic/ugh, the gym in January, am I right?")

And then I dash to Target, buy a brand new pretty notebook for a brand new me and write dreamy and unrealistic ways to make a better Rachael for the new year to come. In fact, my new imaginary Rachael usually ends up having the lifestyle of Zooey Deschanel by the time next Christmas rolls around.

Expectation

Of course, once Christmas does roll around again, it's just me, regular Rachael, sitting indian-style on the couch with her frizzy hair and glasses in her old Christmas jammies. Why does this happen every year?

Reality

So I have been thinking good and hard about how to have realistic expectations this year because I do want to be a better me this year without falling into the new year resolution stereotypes.

A big part of my plan for this year revolves around a book I read this year called The Power of Habit. So good, btdubs. Please read it. Anyway, a whole chapter talks about keystone habits, which are small habits that we make that have a positive snowball effect, causing us to make other better habits.

I know from past experience that my most effective keystone habit is waking up early. For the record, I hate being jarred awake at 6 a.m. by my naggy alarm clock with the passion and fire of a thousand angry ex-girlfriends. There is nothing worse than having to get up earlier than you were ready to, out of a warm, toasty bed under a large pile of sheets and comforters that make you feel like nothing bad can possibly happen to you while you're buried under them, whether you are on the blissful verge of falling asleep, dozing back off at 4:30 and knowing you have a couple more hours, or just peacefully coming out of a good nights rest while still grasping at  the remains of your "winning a shopping spree at J. Crew" dream.  I love to wake up early, so this is no sacrifice to me at all.

To the unsuspecting bystander who didn't know there were two sisters deep under those blankets, this looks like an abandoned bed on the roof of a home in St. George and not a blissful haven of warmth that stands for everything good in life

Anyway, when I am in the habit of waking up early, my whole day goes so much more smoothly. I tend to be about a million times more productive and have the energy and motivation to do things like clean and cook and pay bills and exercise.

So instead of making a whole list of things I want to do and Rachaels I want to become, I am solely focusing on lights out by 10:00, lights on by 6:00, no matter how open my morning is. I am pretty positive that if I can turn this into a habit, it will cause a chain reaction and spill into other less organized areas of my life.

One concrete goal. Easy enough? Duh, since I don't have any problems waking up early, I definitely don't need you to wish me good luck, so save your breath.

Well, I totally had something else I was going to write about, so that ended up kind of being a rant. I'll try again tomorrow. It's already 1:00 a.m.

Dang it.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Our little corner of the world

Since it has been such a long time since I have consistently posted, here's a QUICK update so I can move on to the more exciting and current storytelling ventures of my life:



 Got married.....


 Graduated from BYU-Idaho with a public health degree....


 Got a dog....
(just kidding, this is my family's dog but I love her like she's my own. Whoever said love can't be bought has never slipped pieces of meat to a dog at dinner.)



Moved to Salt Lake to both do internships (Franklin Covey for Eric, Salt Lake Aging Services for me)....



 Took a fun trip/belated honeymoon to London, Scotland, and Ireland.

Lots of other things have happened too, but I really am feeling too lazy to vaguely gloss over anything else.

Which bring us to now!

After weeks searching for gross, overpriced apartments in Salt Lake, we found a great basement apartment of a friend of my mom's. She lives with her 102 year old mother who we LOVE. Back to Roselle in a moment.

I generally hate basement apartments because they are dark, dingy and tend to ruin your whole living space when a flash flood comes rolling through town, forcing you to sleep on your living room floor for three weeks, kayak to the grocery store, and rotate the only two outfits you have access to since your bedroom is a giant construction project. I can't make these details up. This happened to us this summer.

However, our current basement apartment walks out to the most beautiful backyard on a hill that overlooks Salt Lake. It is twice as big as any of our other apartments. And we help around the house in exchange for most of our rent. It has been a blessing since both of our internships are unpaid.

Roselle is the 102 year old woman that lives above us. Sometimes my duties include putting her to bed when her daughter is out of town. Normally, I would not look forward to taking off adult diapers/dentures/wigs and lathering ointment on someone's legs, but Roselle is sassy and hilarious, two of my favorite things.

Things that regularly come out of Roselle's mouth:
"Well, I only robbed one bank today, so let's hope tomorrow is better."
"What size feet do you have?! I sure am glad I don't have those big things."
"At least I have outlived all of my enemies" (said with a sigh while I am putting her to bed).

Her heart is healthier than an average 30 year old. I am pretty sure she will live forever. So chatting with Roselle is actually kind of the highlight of our day.

Not to say that our living situation is perfect. When we first moved in, we had to spend the first several nights at my parents house because our apartment was littered with spiders. Big ones, little ones, hairy ones, ones with big butts, jumping ones. You name it, it was in our shower or closet. So I had the place sprayed and the guy told me we would be seeing lots of dead spiders around the apartment. He also gave us some of those sticky spiders traps that you put against the wall.

Conceptually, these traps are great, but in reality, it's upsetting to see that dozens of spiders have crawled along your walls in a matter of days. The sticky stuff has long stopped being sticky, but I am too creeped out to pick them up. Right now I am looking at one sticky trap next to the computer that has a spider that is literally three times the size of the rest. So much for sleeping tonight.

We also have a rat problem. Actually, I don't know if they are rats or mice, but what's the difference really? I could never tell, except that rats are bigger? Anyway, since we live on a slope, there are stairs that wrap around the house to the driveway. These...rats...have burrowed holes in the grass at the top of the stairs and I think they have a whole tunnel system/rat kingdom under there. Every time I walk up or down the stairs, I hear rustling. I am unsettled by this as well. I have no logical reason to be scared of anything creepy or crawly unless it's poisonous. But fear is almost never logical.

My illogical fear-ridden mind is positive that there is a rat king down in the rat kingdom that for months has been ordering the other rats to dig a rachael-sized grave underneath the stairs and that one of these nights, they will swarm me and drag me down to my grave and no one will ever know where I went. This fear has driven me to literally run around the stairs at night, giving the rat kingdom the widest berth the lawn will let me.

On the plus side, we have a little kitty cat that comes and sits on our porch chair that I named Felix. I may have left out some deli meat for him, sealing our fate as his forever second family. I am so naughty with feeding animals. Sorry to Felix's family and my parents for teaching your pets to beg.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The sad realities of me blooming late and peaking early in life



I have been thinking a lot about my 14 year-old sister and where she is right now compared to where I was at that age. I mean, it's not really great to be in the business of reminiscing about your 14 year-old self because that's just asking for a good case of depression and cringing. So I will make it brief. But let me paint you a picture:

When I was in middle school, I was walking around with the most terrible bangs that I had impulsively cut (and then got sick of, so re-cut right to the hairline and was then trying to grow out) (I am thinking of bangs again. Is that just asking for trouble? Am I predetermined to cut them to the hairline again when I hate them?) My hair is curly so I straightened the bangs and wore a greasy ponytail everyday. I owned maybe 4 pairs of baggy pants in shades of beige, navy, and black (school uniform colors, ya know). In seventh grade I had two pairs of shoes: a black, chunky heeled boot and an Avia sneaker from Costco. I wore the Costco sneakers every day with, say, khaki capris and a non-logo red polo shirt with my greasy bang ponytail and lavender/hot pink braces. At home, I wore baggy shirts and soccer shorts.

I also had a fresh smattering of acne on my forehead so yeah, I was the object of every pubescent boy's desire. It's not that my parents were so poor that they couldn't afford good clothes. I just was an awkward, shy girl whose daily vernacular did not include words like "shopping", "jewelry" and "shower."

Emma, on the other hand, has several pair of Lululemon leggings, long and luscious hair, clothes that I would steal if I could fit into (unlike Emma, I was NOT a size 00 in middle school), the perfect two-swipe and age-appropriate mascara routine, and a fresh, zit-free face. If I could sum up Emma in one phrase, it would be this one that she said last week upon seeing a picture of her two year-old self:

"Oh, my eyebrows have been on point since day one."

Emma is popular. I was not. Emma likes to hang out with boys on the weekends. I was much too scared of boys and read books instead. My parents have to call Emma and tell her to come home. My parents had to coax me with bribes to go out and socialize. Emma is growing up much sooner than I did.

What are sisters for, except perfecting each other's lip gloss and jewelry game 

The difference between 14 year-old Rachael and 14 year-old Emma probably stems from personality differences, my parents making more money than they used to and therefore, um, spending more money on their younger children, and I also think it's a generational thing (that one scares me a bit.)

So anyway, I grew up very slowly. And then, very rapidly, I peaked during my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I became much more social. I went on trips with  my friends to India, Mexico, and St. George. I wanted to be in student government, so I created a position for myself and had the school constitution changed (high school Rachael, you're awesome). I dated so many boys my first semester of college that my aunt and girl cousins recall constantly being updated on the new drama every sunday dinner from my mom. I rock climbed/mud caved/mountain biked my way around China for four months. It was all very adventurous and romantic.

Now that I am married and "have to pay bills" and "be responsible" I look back on my peak years and can't help but feel that I have back-peddled to 14-year old Rachael. I spend most of my weekends reading. I wear lots of baggy shirts and soccer shorts. If I end up cutting bangs again, I have a suspicion that I will look like my middle school self instead of the effortlessly put-together girls on Pinterest. I constantly plan imaginary trips to faraway places that I probably should forgo so I can, like, go to grad school or have kids one day.

Emma is repeatedly telling me what's trendy. I feel like I should be in the loop too. It makes me feel like a 40 year-old mom, truthfully.

On Halloween, I was at the grocery store, buying candy for trick or treaters, and I saw some high school girls, all dressed up and ready to go to a party and I thought, "Oh, how cute. You are so young and darling and in the prime of your life!" And then I immediately rolled my eyes at myself because older adults say those same kinds of things to me all the time. So I guess I've still maybe got it? But "having it" is relative because a 50-year old still "has it" to an 80 year-old.

So there you have it, the rise and fall of the Rachael Ely empire. My small, tiny window of being at the top of my game. I definitely know that I will read this post when I'm 35 and laugh and think that in my early twenties, I was at the top of my game. And then, at 80, I'll think the same thing of being 35. Does anyone else think that we tend to romanticize our pasts and remember events and time periods being more ideal that they really were? I totally do. Except at 14. I wish I saw the middle school years through rose-colored glasses so it doesn't make me shudder when I try to fall asleep. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When I lost my marbles in Edinburgh and an old Scottish man made it all better



While visiting my aunt and uncle in London this summer, Eric and I took a quick weekend voyage up to Edinburgh. Starting and ending with a train ride that made all my Potter dreams come true (Harry and Beatrix), it was magically lush, misty, green, and everything a twenty-something year old could ever hope for. Holding hands with strangers at a bagpipe tattoo while all swaying back and forth and singing "Auld Lang Syne" changes a person, I am telling you.

Anyway, on friday morning, we woke up early in London, slept on the train, and then hit the ground running once we pulled up to the Waverly train station, determined to make the most of our three days there. I had decided before our Europe trip that I would NOT wear sneakers/chacos/tevas. I believe my thought process was: Please. A little sole discomfort means NOTHING to this well-seasoned traveller. Less than three hours into walking around Edinburgh in my salt water sandals (might as well have been pieces of cardboard), lugging around my weekend bag, my feet were red, swollen and I am pretty sure throbbing so much that there was a visible pulse in them.

Fast forward two hours and I was walking around in a brand spanking new pair of Birkenstocks, which isn't quite so bad as chacos, seeing as they're all the rage in Europe and Steve Madden has a knockoff version.

However, I was moaning and groaning because they were so awkwardly uncomfortable and my feet were still swollen and pounding like a 2 a.m. rave. Eric decided for the both of us that we should call it a night and hailed a taxi to take us to our on-the-edge-of-Edinburgh apartment for the weekend, which we had strategically booked because it was much cheaper than the rooms right in town. (By the way, I am now devoted to Airbnb.com. It is the cheapest way to bunk for sure.)

I showed the taxi driver the address our host had given us. He drove us out to the suburbs of Edinburgh and then kept driving, driving, driving. By this time, it was a little dark and the road we were on was empty in a creepy middle-of-nowhere-where-are-you-taking-us kind of way. We finally turned into an apartment complex--one that you had to drive for half a mile off the road to even get to.

The taxi driver said "OK, here you go."

I said, "which apartment is it?"

He said, "I don't know. The address doesn't say."

Me, "that number isn't the apartment number???"

Him, "noooo...that's the zip code."

He drove off, leaving me in a mild panic, in front of a massive apartment complex, at dusk, many miles away from the city center or any other building in site for that matter, and with no way to call our host. My uncle had given us a cell phone for the weekend that has a data plan, but it was conveniently dead. Eric meandered and I waddled over to one of the apartment buildings and peered inside to see an array of wall outlets where we could charge Uncle Jim's phone and call our host. We tugged on the door. Locked.

Eric started ringing telecoms and all but begged tenants to let us in--perfect strangers with melon sized feet--so we could charge our phone. Clearly, clearly every person thought he was a serial killer and hung up in fright.

To this day, Eric will tell you that it was NO big deal. We were so fine. I submit we were not fine. We were miles away from anything, standing in front of a hundred apartments, any of which could be ours, with a dead phone. OK, now that I write it out, I can see it for what it really was--a minor glitch. But at the time, we were not going to be alright, OH NO WE WERE NOT.

We were not going to find her.

We were going to have to sleep on the lawn.

We would be freezing and hungry.

OUR TRIP WAS RUINED.

It's possible that all of the blood in my body had rushed to my swollen feet and therefore, I could not think a single rational thought, so I sunk to the lawn and start crying while Eric yelled to some drunk girls on a patio, asking if they knew of an "Alina" who has some sort of Russian or Ukrainian last name that he couldn't remember.

Eric basically picked me up off the ground and dragged me out to the street where we lugged all of our stuff down the empty, dark street. Luckily, after 30 minutes of walking (Eric will tell you it was five) and a few tears, we saw a gas station. I shuffled through the door and literally flung my bags and myself on the floor next to the door where I could plug our phone into an outlet right behind the ice cream bar freezer.

Honestly, no shame, just me flinging myself on a dirty gas station floor.

I sat there waiting for the phone to turn on and an old man walked through the door, looked down at me, and moved along. I cannot even bear to imagine the sight: a twenty-something American girl, wearing a blouse and Birkenstocks, nursing her tender feet, while sitting on a gas station floor with several bags and a coat haphazardly strewn about her. I want to say "Oh, honey" to this girl and pity her, but I WAS her.

Anyway, a few minutes later, this same old man came up to me, reached his hand out to grab mine, smiled, and said in the most genuinely sincere, thoughtful and tender voice, " God bless you." Then he handed me a can of salt and vinegar Pringles that he had  just purchased, squeezed my hand, and made for the door.

I managed a lumpy thank you through watery eyes and when he left, I had to compose myself for a minute before I could call our host to get her apartment number. I picked myself up off the floor and we headed back the way we came.

I hate salt and vinegar Pringles so Eric munched on them while he bounced down the road. Eric thinks the Pringle man was drunk, but I am positive he was 100% sober and just saw a girl in need of a little comfort. It's not like we were in a dire situation--I was literally one minute away from talking to Alina on the phone--but it was one of those small, sweet, compassionate moments that makes you feel like your burden (no matter how ridiculous) has been lifted off your shoulders a bit because people are generally kind and understanding. And for some reason, that's hugely comforting. I will honestly always remember that small act of kindness, even though he probably has already forgotten.

We ended up finding the apartment and all was well. Alina, our host, happens to play the harp for a living and apologized profusely for practicing while we fell asleep. It was absolute heaven. So was taking off my Birks.

Side note: I now love my Birkenstocks to no end. Every time I put them on after a long day of work, I feel like this: