With a Song in My Heart

The final week of my twenties has arrived, and I am floating in a pool of nostalgia—Seventeen magazine in one hand, Capri Sun in the other, and my hair pulled back in a sc√ľnci. Part of that is because I spent the morning photographing my Teeny Beanie Babies before sending them off to a new home, part of that is because I'm always perilously sentimental, and part of that is because I just went traipsing through my blog archives to find out what I wrote about when I turned twenty. (Spoiler alert: my teen years ended just a few days after Hurricane Katrina obliterated New Orleans, and I was too busy writing about that to say anything reflective about aging or whatever. How weirdly mature of me! I did line up a date with Elijah Wood that weekend for the release of his Green Street Hooligans flick, though, so that was a refreshing bit of normalcy.)

I've been on a kick of cleaning out closets and other neglected corners for the past few weeks, getting rid of trash (cell phone bill from 2003, oh, how cheap you were) and treasures (Teeny Beanie Babies) and so many saved notes from high school. This is all part of a campaign to downsize the amount of possessions I will someday take with me when I get my underpaid butt into my own apartment, which will instantly look like a page from the West Elm catalogue because that's how uncluttering works.

Operation: Living Solo has chewed up whatever free time I had in August (which wasn't much; sorry for failing VEDA), and I expect that it will consume most of my September, as well, with some notable exceptions:

  1. XOXO Festival: By sheer magic, my boyfriend and I both got tickets to XOXO this year (first time for both of us), so we will be spending a weekend in Portland with artists and musicians and nerds. Some of my favorite Internet people will be there, and I am excited to freeze in front of them and later kick myself for being so damn shy.
  2. Frodo Baggins' Birthday: Woo!
  3. Birthday Shindig Weekend: Because my job tries to kill me every August with an insane to-do list, I do not have enough brain left to plan anything for my actual birthday, September 4. Instead, the last weekend of the month is going to involve some eating and drinking and belated merrymaking in Chicago! Details to come.

So I've shared some thoughts and some news, and I guess that is how blogging happens? Hashtag the end.

Competitive Reading

Competitive reading is my new jam. It started in January, when one of my Goodreads book clubs decided to read through the first Harry Potter book together. The group is only made up of a dozen people, and I've always been one of the first to finish reading any of our assigned books—mostly because I have an inordinate amount of free time but also in small part because I'm a very fast reader. When I saw that one of my good friends in the group started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone just after I did, I decided to increase the challenge for myself and try to finish the entire series before he finished the first book. Because I wanted to keep this casual (and also because I wanted to win), I did not tell him about the competition; I just filled my nights with wizards and witches and Hagrids.

The last few days were absolutely hilarious, as I finally spread the word about what I was intending to do. I checked Goodreads frantically, making sure my overall progress in the series was close to the progress he was making in the first book. I was living and breathing the books, as evidenced by the number of fake spells I was casting in my text message conversations. By the end, I had read 4,100 pages in ten days. He finished the first book on a Sunday afternoon, and I wrapped up the final book that same evening.

It was a sweet, sweet personal victory.

This was the story I was telling my coworkers yesterday afternoon (in a silly attempt to divert the conversation from snakes getting loose in people's houses). My senior pastor, a notoriously avid reader, was completely flabbergasted by this accomplishment, which prompted another coworker to issue a new challenge: the Wheel of Time series. It is a fourteen-book story by Robert Jordan that spans 11,520 pages. People have been urging me to read it for years, but I didn't want to set aside the time or energy required.

But here I have a set of perfect excuses and perfect rewards: wiping the smug looks from my coworkers' faces and enjoying a really great adventure along the way. (And yes, I do actually read every word of the story. I am also proofreading for spelling and grammar, highlighting my favorite quotes, and re-reading entire sections just for the fun of it along the way.) Competitive reading is my new jam.

A Teeny Tiny Moment

In December, my boyfriend took me to the Art Institute in Chicago to see a series of miniature rooms, many of which were decorated for the holidays. It's probably as weird as it sounds, but I had been looking forward to seeing the exhibit for weeks. We marveled at the miniature stockings on the miniature mantelpieces, mocked the ugly miniature portraits on the miniature walls, cooed at the miniature grand staircases, realized in joint horror that we'd probably be very good at making and maintaining miniature rooms, started planning a series of miniature rooms from the '90s with teeny tiny boy band posters on the walls and teeny tiny glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. (There is a slight possibility that I flapped my arms up and down in excitement when I saw the room with the itty bitty tea set and then a very small doll who had her own even ittier bittier tea set.)

Halfway through the exhibit, he stopped and said, "Nearly every one of these rooms has an enormous rug covering the floor. Do you know how expensive those things are? I've done some research . . ." The monologue was cut short as I turned to look at him. His expression was the very chick-lit definition of earnest and sincere—brow slightly furrowed, eyes narrowed and focused, jaw set and determined—and I erupted in laughter. It was one of those moments when I couldn't help but love him, this man who could stand against a backdrop of absurd domesticity and still somehow discuss floor coverings with any level of intensity.