Out East Road Trip Day 1: Minnesota to Ohio

Good morning from scenic Dayton, Ohio.  We got in late last night, so I can’t speak to much of why it’s so “scenic,” but from what I saw of the bluffs and the trees, it is.  I love a city with bluffs and trees.  Probably because I’m partial to my native St. Paul, which has both.  Which leads me (I kid you not) to my next point: isn’t it funny how when we travel (or at least, when I travel) we admire or gape at or disparage sights based on where we’re from?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “This or that looks like Minnesota,” often with an air of disappointment, because for heaven sakes I’m driving cross-country!  I want vast scenic differences!  It’s not your fault, Ohio.

This post, by the way, will cover what happened yesterday.  I meant to write it last night, but you know how comfy hotel beds are, and how tempting they are after thirteen hours on the road.

The drive yesterday from Minnesota to Ohio was punctuated by two primary events: 1. I ate a McDonald’s egg McMuffin for breakfast that made me feel, for the next eight hours, like I had a softball-sized ball of grease roiling in my stomach.  It was awful, and the likes of Tums, Coke, and pretzels (to soak up the grease) were of no avail.  I really should know by now that McDonald’s never ceases to have dastardly effects on my innards.  No worries that I’ll forget again: I think yesterday served to build up a strong aversion.  2. The van began to act up whilst we were on the seven-lane freeway in the traffic-y Chicago area.  I pointed out to my Mom that our family, not unlike the Griswolds, never ceases to have car trouble on road trips.  She didn’t think it was very funny.  Anyway, luckily there’s a Chrysler dealer in Dayton that was willing to have a look.  It was a loose battery cable, apparently, which would explain the flickering of gauges and the random bursts of hot air from the vents.

Today, after I shower and clean up the contents of my suitcase–which always seem to end up strewn about the room–we’re heading over to see the Wright Brother’s flying field.  Then it’s off to Virginia, which I feel certain will not “look like Minnesota.”

P.S. I know I’ve neglected to talk about the Killers concert.  I’ll write about that soon.  Right now, I’m under the pressure of a looming check-out time.

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Holly Graduates from College, Acts I-II

My goodness, I have such a graduation story to tell you!  It has everything: action, drama, ugly robes, copious hugs, celebrities, public speaking, a trip to the ER …

Obviously, then, it’s going to take me a while to write out such a saga.  Bear with me.  It’s a long story.

I’ll be publishing it in parts.  Both for my sanity and yours.

Act I. Prequel

About a month ago, I broke the overhead light fixture in the bathroom in the house I’m renting (with three housemates) from a former UMM professor.  This was bad for three reasons:

1. I’m renting the house.  And the former UMM professor is currently trying to sell the house.  And a bare lightbulb in the bathroom looks kind of sad.

2. I’m renting the house.  And that means I put down a deposit when I moved in to ensure that if I broke or otherwise damaged any part of the house, my landperson could keep the deposit and use it to pay for repairs.  The light I broke may not have been very expensive (not that I know much about lighting beyond my enjoyment of that glowing section of Menards), but it was probably enough to justify my landperson keeping my deposit.

3. The light fixture I broke (not the actual bulb, but the globe that fit over it) was made of glass, which is sharp, hard to see, and generally dangerous.

Knowing this, I swept thoroughly.  I made sure to get the corners, the sink (where the light initially landed and shattered to almost cinematic effect), the tub, even out in the hallway, where I suspected small pieces had flown and were lurking.  Throughout the next week, I swept a few more times, and picked up tiny individual pieces that I had missed.  But by the week after that, I had mostly forgotten about the incident.  There were no more random glitters as I brushed my teeth, no more ominous crunches underfoot.

Act II. Or So I Thought

It was the morning of Commencement.  I had slept fairly well the night before, due to the NyQuil I was still allowed to take because of a lingering cold.  I was mostly concerned with not thinking about my impending speech, and so I showered, washed my face, and brushed my teeth with almost zombie-like coolness.  On the way out of the bathroom, I took the same route as usual: I stepped over the threshold and turned immediately left, then left again around the low-walled stairwell, and then turned right into my bedroom.  Somewhere along that route–I suspect not far from the bathroom–I felt a sudden stinging in the bottom of my left foot.  I thought, as had happened before, that a small piece of gravel, tracked in from outside, was stuck to my foot, pressing its sharpness against it.  When I looked, I didn’t see anything but a small cut, which was bleeding profusely.  Strangely, that part of my foot hurt a lot when I put weight on it, which was what initially led me to suspect that there was something in my foot.  I was running a little late, and so didn’t have time to do much besides apply a band-aid and note with satisfaction that my fancy graduation sandals forced me to walk on the middle/inside of my feet instead of on the outside, where the wound was.

Dark Side of the Moo

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After three weeks of mysterious on-and-off nausea, my lactose intolerance has been officially determined.

Note that when I say official, I mean that I conducted several tests on myself including drinking milk and waiting to feel crummy, and eating string cheese and waiting to feel crummy.  The crumminess arrived promptly in both instances, to the point where I am now revolted at the prospect of dairy.  Except for ice cream.  My goodness, what will I do without ice cream this summer?

It seems funny to find out about this so late in life.  I mean, I can think of childhood instances where dairy made me sick, but not to this extent.  My sister also mentioned that it makes sense that I’m lactose intolerant, as I’ve never been a big milk drinker.  I always thought that was just because I don’t especially enjoy the taste of plain milk, but perhaps this preference has roots in me not feeling well after drinking milk as a kid.

Apparently, however, not experiencing any symptoms for a few decades is fairly common.  The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse says the following:

Primary lactase deficiency develops over time and begins after about age 2 when the body begins to produce less lactase. Most children who have lactase deficiency do not experience symptoms of lactose intolerance until late adolescence or adulthood.

What’s nice, though, is that dairy products in certain contexts don’t seem to bother me.  For instance, I had pizza a few days ago, and didn’t have a problem with the cheese on top.  I thought maybe it had something to do with the cheese being cooked, but apparently not: pancakes made with mix and milk are a no no, as is oatmeal nuked with milk.  It will be interesting to keep experimenting and to determine what affects me and what doesn’t.

Overall, I think this discovery will involve a minimal lifestyle change.  As you can see above, I bought my lactose free milk at the grocery store today, and am looking forward to trying it out tomorrow.

Mostly, though, I’m glad that I’m not allergic to gluten (like my darling sister, who is much more of a champ about it than I would be).  Giving up baked goods would be much more of a blow.

Why I Will Never Be “Athletic People”

I’ve been watching my mother run races and triathlons for years now.  I arrive with my dad and sister, crusty-eyed and cold in the early morning.  I almost always feel self-conscious amongst all of the “athletic people.”  They flex in their spandex and their calves ripple.  They pinch their bike tires, calloused fingers feeling the subtle swell and fall of the air inside, like a rubber heart beat.  They laugh and smile with their families, but soon, they are determined, and they are focused.  They do not pause, and they only smile again to encourage a fellow racer, and at the moment of their final stride under the balloon-marked finish line.

But this morning, albeit still bleary-eyed and chilled, I ran amongst them.  I ran an entire 5k, with a little bit of walking because I was stupid and ate half of a Lara Bar this morning, and then had to throw it up in the tunnel along the route.  That was gross.  It also made me feel slightly tough.  As in, my stomach is pretending to be Shawn Johnson right now, so I’m simply going to toss my cookies in a corner of a public pathway and continue on my merry way.

Despite the pause, and despite the attained toughness, the last mile was hard.  There were hills, and there were 85-year-old men passing me (humbling and awe-inspiring), and I was sweaty inside my oven of an Under Armour shirt.  But as I rounded the last bend, behind the grocery store, behind the dentist I switched from because he was a little drill happy for my taste, behind the car wash, the crowd came into view.  It was parted, and a narrow path — the path I was on — lay in the middle.  Let me tell you something I learned today: it is difficult to stop and walk when your mother is holding a camera, when people you know are cheering your name and people you don’t are simply cheering.  It is difficult, also, to pick up your pace and hurtle toward the finish with the best form you can muster.  But that’s what I did, because I have a — often deeply-buried — competitive streak.  I also just wanted to finish quickly so that I could stop running.

And so it’s over, and my legs are sore, and my running tights are streaked with vomit, but my friends, I ran a 5K.

Happy Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for bleach and for legs that can carry me farther than I ever thought possible.  And for pie, of which I partook with a relish that surely further deepened the gorge between me and “athletic people.”