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Oh the places

It’s time to window shop for trip. The travel bug is in my DNA, courtesy of parents who lived all over the world and didn’t hesitate to take us with them. (It’s one of the greatest gifts they gave us, by the way; we’re adventurous when it comes to exploring this gorgeous Earth and its people.) If just a few circumstances were different, I’d more seriously explore living overseas, but am putting that on hold for now. Thinking about a new journey will more than fulfill for the near future.

After the Africa trip, I came home set on making my next trip as dynamic as that one. We were observers, of course, but we were actively exploring and always in motion when we weren’t sleeping. The same was true for Italy. Against the good-natured warnings of concerned fellow travelers, I saw not only the traditional splendor of Rome but walked the stone streets of Pompeii and the strikingly vivid hills of Amalfi, all in three days. No offense taken, says the lazy beach vacation, but I have done sandy relaxation for so long – early trips to the Virgin Islands, the college trips to the Bahamas and Cancun, 2010 in Hawaii with half the time spent reclined ocean side, 2012 in Bermuda, Florida trips too numerous to count. It’s a wonderful way to vacation, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t do it for weeks at a time anymore. I want to be doing.

I also want to be learning. We were amateur zoology students while in Africa and we loved it. Our guide taught us the different types of gazelle and the eating habits of the hippo (and to stay clear of the latter, and the convincing reasons why). We talked about the coming of age rituals of the Maasai and of the strategy of setting brush ablaze 50 feet from your lodge window. We never felt overwhelmed by information (maybe by fatigue, but in our defense 18 hours is a good bit of flying time), and felt a little bit like kids, back when we were excited and were open to learning about just about anything. It matters not if you remember all you’ve been told about a culture or a mountain or a meal; for that moment you were a part of it. I want that intoxicating feeling next time around.

So a trip to the Galapagos Islands is at the top of my list. In an ideal world I’d tour by boat as I love being on the water. I’d find a way to be close to those gorgeous tortoises and perhaps volunteer for a bit. I’d learn about the birds, snorkel and sneak up on penguins, strain to figure out the time difference from home. An active volcano would be an amazing plus. (Ok, and maybe a beach day.)

Other places on the life list? Finally being SCUBA certified and heading to Indonesia. A wildlife trip to Australia. The moai of Easter Island, a photography trip to the national parks of Alaska, the glaciers, falls and pools of Iceland. The cities of Prague and Hong Kong. And somewhere I can hold a sloth.

Where will you go?


Not necessarily upward

(Written on March 31st; finally typed up today. The following remains the same. Since then, I’ve had radioactive thyroid treatment, which has left me exhausted yet semi-feral. They warned me about this part, so I will wade on through. I have also been told that there is a light ahead.)

Ultimately, this is a cool medical mystery. It’s cool because I’m 90% sure it won’t kill me before I’m 40. It’s also cool because I’ve seen more than a handful of doctors and there is not a definitive diagnosis. They seem like well-educated people; they agree with one another’s blood tests and have more than one diploma each. They just don’t agree on what I have, and more frustrating for me, how long it will last. My endocrinologist is sure it’s an allergic reaction to the medication I took for my thyroid, so I’m going with that. I’ve filed a report with the FDA and I’ve added it as a status on my Facebook wall, so you know it’s for real. Apologies to the allergist and rheumatologist who think it could be any number of things. I can’t exist like that.

The heavens and Oprah were clearly looking out for me when I got laid off, because otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the time to get sick. It’s a semi-full-time job, the affliction, one that requires daytime doctors’ appointments more than 10 miles from home and a state away. Forget the days in the hospital and the weeks that followed under the care of my mother; it’s the upkeep that taxes.

The lingering issue is pain in my knees, and while I was never going to scale Everest, it’s irritating to feel strain each time you stand or sit. I’m trying to lose weight in an effort to take pressure off of my joints and build upon the weight loss momentum an overtime thyroid and illness provide, but am more often than not giving in to the call of the Wicked, the Cadbury egg and the Twizzler. I don’t even like candy that much, I would have told you a year ago, and it would have been the truth. Now my hands serve as shovels for Sour Patch Kids and Mike and Ikes and Mary Janes. I have been keeping a hidden stash in the linen closet, in an oversize gift bag someone brought to the hospital. If we could have periodic superpowers, candy consumption would apparently be mine.

Other things – similar sensory experiences – have changed at the same time, leaving many smells newly overwhelming. When I was away from home, a bulb of garlic in the cabinet closest to the window warmed itself for a full month, probably turning over and around, placing each of its parts closer and closer to the sun. When I got home, still unable to navigate the stairs to take out the trash, the smell inside that cabinet was so pungent, so horrifying and crippling in its intensity, that I dry heaved as if I’d found a dead person. A dead person left in my Florida apartment in the middle of August. Ten years ago when I lived there. It’s like this with so many other scents too, which is disappointing. A neighbor cooking a strongly-spiced dinner, a leftover burrito pulled from a dinner container. I gag, deeply in the thick of my throat, the most attractive kind. It’s as if I’m pregnant, but I don’t have sex. Exactly like that.


I’m doing my best to ensure that I have sex again this decade by starting to date again. This is a relatively time-intensive activity, as well, one that involves looking through online mug shots and attempting charm and spontaneity and wholehearted uncrazy through the exchange of light emails. It’s not really an adventure, as more than two of my coupled friends have described it. It’s a soul-sucking and constant reminder of your singleness and the pool (of shirtless men posed on shag carpets) in which you’re now swimming. But that doesn’t make for good ad taglines.

The last date was a really nice guy. We met for dessert and had good starting conversation, staying clear of the weather and opting instead for DC local talk and favorite food indulgences. I’d canceled our earlier date due to my stay at the Medical Resort, so I gave him some background on the suspected med reaction, the hospital roommate who told me about selling crack to pay off her house – you know, the basics. He in turn shared an anecdote about his experiences with hospitals, and in what I will call my empathetic fervor – not to mention the eagerness associated with not having been in a social situation for more than a calendar month – I pushed him to share more. Which prompted talk of his most recent health crisis. Which led to a frank discussion of his imminent organ transplant. He wins.

Turns out living as a medical mystery does not great first date fodder make. I did wonder for a split second how we’d look as caregivers, him driving me to endocrinologist appointments and me telling him those extra organs don’t make him look fat, but it was not to be. He wished me good luck in my job search and I thanked him for the cake. Lesson learned: add bodily failures to the list of second date topics. Next.

Fancy that

Do you ever want to be super smart in something particular? Something impressive (to you), something so interesting that you read or research it under the covers at night, so consuming that you sneak it into your workday when you really should be doing something else? At 39, I’ve realized that I know a little about quite a few things, but I’m not particularly the master of any of them. I know a great deal about pop culture pre-2010 (that’s when I couldn’t keep up with the influx of young stars. I now know only half of the celebrities at any given moment on I know a lot about algebra and could solve for x even if I’d downed all the tequila in your house; I am a fierce editor but still have to consult a book from time to time. I want to know something so well that I’d bet the farm on it at Jeopardy. I’d find other people with the same bug to lean in to rather than run away from, seeking conversation and chatter where I’d normally avoid it. I want to pull morsels of knowledge from dark nooks and crannies that most people walk over. I don’t want to ever want to put it down.

So far, it’s been much easier to rule out things that I don’t want to pursue or study than to rule things in. Design of any sort? No. I do not enjoy art or its history enough to read it after hours. Same for Russian, Spanish, most world history, land management, the history of trains, entomology, taxidermy, roller derby, ham radio, knitting (tried it; the world was never going to benefit from that attempt), weaving, any part of the study of anthropology, vintage (or otherwise) cars, chemistry, robotics (shudder), economics, politics and any relatively unimpressive geology. But post-WWI American history or the details of the birth and rebirth of NE DC? That might do it. The genesis and management of pain? Sounds odd, but particularly lately, yes. Ditto for English syntax, bats, female spies, John Updike, sign language, creative non-fiction, marine mammals, the patient advocacy movement, digital photography, the French language, films of the 1950s, Tudor England, the fate of the universe . . . and other stuff like that. I’m still thinking.

Are you an expert? Do you want to be?