Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Textual Activity

My horribly years-old, out-of-date cell phone plan does not include text messaging.

I know.

Unfortunately, since I exist in the now, this is a problem. Text messaging is a mode of communication that can no longer be financially supported by myself.

Please don't text me anymore! My TEXTING bill, just for sending and receiving text messages, was $25 this month. That's insane. That's, like, five chais. A new top. Half a tank of gas!

Just know that I'm not ignoring you if you don't get a text back from me. And if I do text you owe me twenty cents!!

New phone plans will be under investigation next week. Findings will be posted.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Arthritis...the low down...

Last week there was an article in the Register about Joy Fawcett, who was part of the U.S.’s gold medal-winning Olympic soccer team in Athens. Fawcett is an O.C. wife and mother of three and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2002. It’s an interesting article that you can read here.

The article said that, according to a survey of 1000 people with RA, two out of three felt that their family and friends underestimated the impact of the disease. I found that very interesting, but I understand why. RA is such an invisible disease. And most people don’t know anything about it. I think most people think it’s a boring old person disease. I didn’t know anything about it until I was diagnosed with it. Let me assure you, it’s definitely not boring! Many of my friends don’t even know the story, so here we go:

During my second year of college I slowly started developing pain in my wrists. First it was just my right wrist; I felt like I had fallen on it and it was sore, except I hadn’t fallen and it was sore for months! Then the same pain started in my left wrist and thumb. Soon, I was not able to move my hands in the mornings when I would wake up; they were so stiff that I could not bend them. My wrists felt like they were bound with duct tape! I had to run them under warm water in the mornings to loosen them up and had difficulty doing everyday tasks like holding a newspaper, pulling clothes out of my closet, brushing my hair, and turning the ignition on in my car. When this was at its worst, I could barely get through a day of school…my hands hurt so much that typing and writing were excruciating and I was so exhausted, I would come home, collapse into bed, and take a four-hour nap to get through a day. I had no energy, was in debilitating pain, and didn’t know why I felt so terrible all the time. I literally could barely function.

After being misdiagnosed for a summer with tendonitis in my hands and doing painful physical therapy, wearing braces on both my hands (not the hippest of fashion statements), enduring a painful cortisone shot directly into my wrist, and trying all sorts of medications (with no relief and only bad side effects), I was finally sent to a rheumatologist. My doctor ordered x-rays, blood tests, and a bone scan. After the results came in, he diagnosed me, at age 21, with rheumatoid arthritis. Yikes.

It took another year after a correct diagnosis to figure out what medication worked for me. I’ve probably taken every anti-inflammatory medication known to man, and two of them have actually been pulled from the shelves because the F.D.A. found them to be unsafe. I took a steroid drug that made me feel horrible, an anti-inflammatory drug that gave me 8-hour headaches, and a chemo drug that made me nauseated for weeks at a time. Nothing was working…

But once we figured out the magic formula, things turned around. I now take a couple of powerful medications, including one that I have to get through a 3-hour IV infusion every eight weeks. I also have to get my blood drawn regularly and get plenty of rest since these drugs suppress my immune system and I still struggle with bouts of fatigue. But really, you would never know I had RA unless I told you. There are some things I can't do, obviously, but I can type 100 words a minute, get through a day of work with very minimal discomfort, and swim four miles a week.

I’m not sharing this for you to pity me or anything. I feel better now than I have in years!! But isn’t this a crazy story? Arthritis is actually a really bizarre disease. There are over 100 types of arthritis, including gout (thanks, Jared Leto, for making gout cool.). RA affects more than 2 million Americans, mostly women. That’s about 1% of the U.S. population. There is no cure but you can treat symptoms and prevent future joint damage.

If you want to be in the know (and who wouldn’t?!) about RA, here’s an informative website.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hammer Time!

Have you ever voted for a band on TRL? Come on, yes you have. Do you remember the very first episodes? No screaming fans. No fancy studio in Times Square. No Mariah Carey meltdowns. Just Carson Daly in a little black room with a TV next to him on a table, babbling about info on new artists and introducing them as their videos played? It was so great and I watched it every night to see who got the most votes. I voted a lot in the early days (For whom? Three blonde brothers from Tulsa, of course!).

I also watched Vh1’s Top 10 Countdown every weekend, hosted by A.J. Hammer. This was back when the Spice Girls ruled the world, and A.J. would always, without fail, ramble on and on about how Sporty Spice was his favorite Spice Girl. He would provide weird, personal information about her and just go on and on and on…seriously, his Spice Girls banter got real old, real fast, and became borderline-creepy.

One day I got online to vote, and in my e-mail, I wrote to Vh1, “What is up with A.J. talking about Sporty Spice all the time?! Seriously, get a life!” Kind of mean, but trust me; it was necessary.

The next week, there was a new host. NO more A.J. No more talk about Sporty.

Did I get A.J. Hammer fired?!

Honestly, I thought so. For years. So, it’s good to see that despite his obsession with Sporty, and his shirt color choices, and the fact that he was the spokesperson for the promotional tour of the Planet Hollywood board game, A.J. is currently hosting Showbiz Tonight. He even snagged an interview with Miley!

Way to go, A.J. Way to go.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In defense of frivolous, juvenile reading

Have you ever read a book for fun? A completely frivolous book that will not teach you anything, improve your vocabulary, give you a new perspective on a political or social or historical issue, challenge you in your faith, open your eyes to a new culture, make you feel smarter for having read it, etc.? I mean, have you ever read a book just for fun? Like, the way you would watch a TV show?

I must first inclination when choosing a book to read is to go for a classic…the books that Mark Twain calls “praised, but never read.” Since having a few inspirational and extraordinary teachers (a la Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society), I’ve acquired a few lists of famous novels that I often take cues from when choosing books to read. I’ve also developed a strong desire and curiosity to discover the greatness of these books; 20th-Century American literature seems to be a favorite of mine (Kerouac, Salinger, Capote, Orwell, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Thompson, etc.), and Cormac McCarthy is my new ‘it’ author. I am a learner, I am a reader, and I like to challenge myself by reading books that sometimes take an effort to get through…an effort that is enjoyed and that is worth it. Don’t get me wrong…I would never read a book or author I hated merely for bragging rights or to check off a list. What I am saying is that getting through a Dickens or Dumas or Dostoevsky novel requires a little more time and effort than, say, a Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book. And that self-imposed extra effort sometimes makes me, and other bibliophiles, book snobs.

What I’ve recently realized is that these mass paperbacks, these New York Times best-sellers, these Oprah Book Club-stamped, on-sale-at-Wal-Mart, soon-to-be-movie books that book snobs often look down upon are not lame, juvenile, or a waste of time in any way.

After reading Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, I was reminded of how fun reading can be…of how much pleasure can come from being so completely lost in a story. When you can’t wait to open up a book at the end of the day and escape to a fictional world typed out on the sweet-smelling pages, you’ve really happened upon a treasure. So, thank you, Stephenie Meyer, for reminding me that I am certainly not above reading mass paperbacks! Twilight reminded me, after a long (but totally enjoyable) read through Emma, that reading can just be pure fun…effortless, sweet entertainment, and nothing more. I was completely enthralled by the story, captivated by the beauty and mystery of the characters, and intrigued by what was going to happen next every moment that I read it.

If only I could say that about Steinbeck!

So don’t hesitate to display that just-read Kirk Cameron autobiography on your shelf next to War and Peace. Read what you want, read what you like. And HAVE FUN reading this summer, and always!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Christian Bale was in this movie? Really? I didn't even notice.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Only One Thing"

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10: 38-42

Busy, busy, busy. Do you ever think “There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” “It’s just a busy season,” or “I have to do this--it's just really important”? A super busy life starts with good intentions, but busyness creates distractions, pressure, and resentment.

This is considered to be the earliest painting of Vermeer’s, the great 17-Century Dutch painter, second only to Rembrandt. It was finished around 1656 and depicts Christ in the house of Mary and Martha. Christ, traveling with his disciples, is welcomed into the home of the sisters, two very different women.

Look at the painting. The core of the composition is the three figures, grouped closely together, emphasizing their physical and psychological interactions. The figures, their gestures, and their locations in relation to each other are where Vermeer tells us so much about the characters of Mary and Martha.

Martha is standing behind a table that she’s just put a basket of food upon. She’s hunched over, looking tired—it seems that she’s carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. Martha is in the midst of “doing”—one can probably sense her fussing and flitting about Jesus, making sure he’s comfortable, getting the food prepared, making sure the house looks nice. She’s distracted by all the preparations that need to be made, and it’s hard to blame her—Jesus is in her house, after all! But look at her pose. Doesn’t she look burdened? It’s interesting that the basket of food that she’s putting on the table is what is keeping her from Christ. The table with all the “work” is the barrier between her and Jesus. She wanted to make sure Jesus was comfortable and the house was clean for him, but in doing so, Martha became a slave to her house and duties.

Mary, on the other hand, is sitting at the feet of Jesus, as Luke describes. She looks comfortable and carefree—she’s even barefoot! She’s obviously not one to be bogged down by details when visitors come. She took the opportunity not to entertain Jesus, but to learn from him and listen to him. Her head rests on her hand as she listens. Her back is toward the table and her sister. There is nothing between her and Jesus. Although her face is mostly in shadow, it’s easy to see that she is in a peaceful, contemplative state, which mirrors the appearance of Jesus much more than it does her sister, Martha.

Jesus is sitting in a chair, relaxed. Martha, frustrated at all of the work that needed to be done, asked Jesus to rebuke her sister for not helping her with the work. “Tell her to help me!” she asked Jesus. Verse 41 is his response to Martha. “You are worried about upset about many things but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Jesus commended Mary, pointing to her example of being still before him. Although Jesus did commend Martha’s zeal, he wanted to point out that Martha was unnecessarily burdening herself with over-carefulness and serving.

We’ve got to remember not to get so caught up in serving the Lord that we forget to worship him and get to know him better. As Mary did, we need to choose what is better.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Hobbit Birthday

Main Entry: (a) Hobbit Birthday

Function: noun

Etymology: coined by J.R.R. Tolkien/Jared Daniel Humphreys

Date: 1937/2008

: A celebration of one’s birthday in which the person being honored selflessly purchases the birthday feast not only for himself, but for the friends that are celebrating with him; paying for something in a way that violates all commonplace birthday etiquette in order to show others one’s love and appreciation for them, instead of vice versa.

: An idea based on the following quote by author J.R.R. Tolkien: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Travel Tips

1. Always bring tissues on plane trips. No matter how healthy you feel, your nose will inevitably run on the plane. It’s some sort of traveling phenomenon that I cannot explain. Just trust me and bring some Kleenex.
2. Don’t forget a scented travel candle. I always bring a travel candle with me on every trip. My friends think this is very high maintenance of me and totally unnecessary, but I have stayed in some nosedive hotels, and you never know how places are going to smell, especially in Europe. Plus, candles are awesome and relaxing at the end of a long day of walking and sightseeing.
3. Do not choose to watch Cold Mountain on a flight. I was bawling and the person sitting next to me had to ask me if I was okay. Kind of embarrassing. (Great movie though.) For fun, I’d recommend watching movies that take place in the country you’re going to (Elizabeth or Sweeney Todd, for example, were good ones for my last trip) and make sure you make some good playlists on your iPod. My London Mix was perfect.

4. Look both ways when crossing the street. I know this sounds stupid because we learned it in kindergarten, but being aware of your surroundings in foreign countries, or anywhere, is major. And getting hurt is the one thing that will ruin your vacation. If your luggage gets lost, your hotel is crappy, you lose your passport, someone steals your money, you miss your flight…whatever. All those things are major hassles but can be fixed, and will also be funny stories in the future. But if you get hit by a car, it’s over. Just be smart.
5. Flexibility is key. Travel hiccups are a part of everyone’s vacation and you have to be able to roll with the punches. Did our free ice cream sundae voucher work at the Hard Rock CafĂ©? No. Were there major delays on the Picadilly line during one of our most densely-planned days? Of course. Did I spend more money than I anticipated? You bet. Was my credit card declined for no reason at the British Museum and is my credit card company going to pay for the 21 pound (That’s $42 American bucks, by the way…) phone call I had to make to sort things out? Get real. But will I let any of that taint the best week ever? No way!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

ENGLAND: The Top Ten List

Hayley and I got back from our holiday in England on Sunday afternoon. What a trip. We did so much and it’s tough to choose highlights—the whole trip was just amazing! Here are the top things that stand out, in random order:
1. Tower of London—A tourist attraction for over three centuries, it’s almost hard to believe all the history of torture, imprisonment, and execution at the Tower. Those who committed treason or threatened the throne have been imprisoned here for over 900 years, and three queens, including two of Henry VIII’s six wives, were executed here. So much soap opera-type drama with the royals…you couldn’t make this stuff up! We were very excited to meet the first female Beefeater ever, Yeoman Warder Moira Cameron. I remember when she made the news last year. What a terribly fascinating place.

2. Westminster Abbey—the mustiness, mystery, and magic of a medieval Gothic cathedral will always speak to my soul. There’s not much to say except that this is the most magnificent place in all of London and it is not a place to try to capture with photos or a terse description; it’s a place to feel and experience.
3. Windsor Castle—Everything you ever imagined a thousand-year-old fairytale castle to be. This wasn’t originally on our itinerary and was a huge treat to be able to visit. All along the walls of this amazing (and gigantic!) castle, one of the Queen’s official residences, were paintings by Holbein, Rubens, and van Dyke. The Queen has an art collection worth ten billion pounds…can you believe that?! If I were rich, I would collect original art and first edition books...maybe someday?
4. Tea at the Ritz—This was our big splurge but it was totally worth it! Hayley and I got dressed up and headed to the exquisite Palm Court at the Ritz Hotel for high tea last Wednesday night. It was an experience I will remember forever and something I would do every time I visited London. I ordered rose congou tea which was wonderful. The warm scones with clotted cream and jam were marvelous, and the Ritz chocolate cake and other pastries were delightful. And as we were walking in, Bill Clinton was walking out…it was just a really memorable, and quite posh, experience =)

5. Oxford—If Oxford was a person, I would marry it. It swept me off my feet! The college and university buildings are breathtaking, we visited Christ Church were scenes from Harry Potter were filmed and which was stunningly beautiful, went to Blackwell’s Books, had Ben’s Cookies (the original!), and ate a late lunch at the Eagle and Child Pub, where JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis shot the breeze regularly. KILL ME NOW…this place was just so fantastic.

6. The British Library—This place was not even on my radar for some reason, but good thing Hayley insisted on a visit. Don’t let the hideous architecture fool you…this place was incredible! They have a Gutenburg Bible, the Magna Carta, the first folio of Shakespeare’s works, Jane Austen’s letters, Captain Cook’s journal, original Beatles lyrics, Handel’s handwritten Messiah, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland sketches and notes, and lots of other original documents. Simply fascinating.

7. Theatre shows—You know what's great about London? People, even young people, actually go to the theater. Billy Elliot was stunning! Music by Elton John. Directed by Stephen Daldry (who directed the film). Just fantastic. And our seats were first row balcony…so great. We also saw Spamalot, front row center (don’t know how that happened!). Seriously the funniest musical I have ever seen in my life! We tried two nights to get tickets to Les Mis (sold out), but these two definitely entertained us.
8. The National Gallery—An art history major’s dream come true. I couldn’t handle myself here. They literally, literally, have works—and not just minor works, but masterpieces—from every major artist. Da Vinci, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Rembrandt, a whole room of Rubens, Van Eyck, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Van Gogh…I could go on and on and on. One of my favorite pieces was a cartoon (full-size prep drawing for a painting, done on paper) done by da Vinci (above). Unfreakingbelievable.

9. Stonehenge—Just a bunch of rocks…no big deal, right? Not exactly. Seeing this iconic site was surreal! We had a lot of fun taking jumping pictures here. It was really exciting, even if it wasn’t created by aliens. It’s a World Heritage site, which made me wonder what else is I've seen on the (very extensive) list. Check it out.

10. The British Museum—I almost had a pleasure-induced seizure here. It’s been a dream of mine to see the Elgin Marbles for a long time (above). They are one of the great treasures of the world. A wonderful portrait of Alexander the Great, one of my favorite people to study, was there too. The mummies and sculptures were just magnificent! And…the museums in London are FREE!!

The man who tires of London tires of life. For there is in London all that life can afford. --Samuel Johnson