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How to Have Hip Surgery

I recently had hip surgery. To be precise, I am nine weeks post-op and I am tired and sore all the time. (I also no longer think in terms of months. My hip has become like an infant to me. It is nine weeks post-op. Not two-ish months since I had surgery. Nine weeks post-op. The damn thing is basically still in diapers, breastfeeding, and not sleeping through the night, okay?)

“What happened?!” people will ask when they see me crutching around.

“I had hip surgery,” I will reply.

For some, that’s enough. Others want more detail: “But what did you do to yourself?”

The short version is I got hurt doing a lot of hooah-hooah Army training that isn’t well-suited to someone with my body type (i.e. Hips Don’t Lie). I was subsequently misdiagnosed, ignored, and sort of half-treated by a stream of doctors, physical therapists, and technicians for three years, and I finally had surgery to repair the issue, which was that the bones in my hip joint were rubbing on each other and tearing up the cartilage. They shaved down the bone to make the femur rotate properly in the socket and repaired the torn labrum.

Ta-da! Good as new!

If your curiosity has been sated, then my story is over. If you would like to learn more about the broken Army healthcare system and the anatomy of the human hip, this is the long version:

Step One: Keep Up

I. Hate. Running.

I am considering having this put on a t-shirt that I will wear every time I conduct fitness:

I think this about sums up what I'd rather be doing.

I think this about sums up what I’d rather be doing.

I’m also thinking about putting this on the back of my car. I’m actually very anti putting-stickers-on-the-back-of-my-car because I don’t think my car should be an extension of my Pinterest boards, but for this I might make an exception:


Like anybody really cares anyway, people.

I can kind of joke about it now, but I’ve had some not-so-funny moments when it comes to athleticism in the Army, particularly with running. I was told I wasn’t good enough to be in the Army, that I didn’t deserve to be at West Point, that I was wasting people’s time and valuable resources. So I learned to shut up and suck it up and not to complain. I know there’s a difference between being sore after a tough workout and being in pain because you’re injured, but I also learned that nobody really seemed to care to make the distinction if you were the kind of person who struggled to keep up, so when my hips started to hurt during ruck marches and after runs, I simply figured it was a symptom of not being a good runner, and didn’t say anything.

Step Two: Almost Die

I decided to do the 2011 New Cadet March Back with my younger sister (a.k.a. Sister #3, author of the outstanding guest entry featured earlier this year).


Sisters in our Army Finery

Our oldest sister was coming from Fort Carson, CO to march with us as well. She had graduated two years earlier and recently returned home from her first deployment to Afghanistan, and because they didn’t really like people who weren’t part of the direct chain of command marching with the New Cadets, I figured I’d better wear a ruck to blend in.

“Just pack it light,” my sister told me. “Don’t put anything in it.”

Easy for the combat veteran to say–I didn’t want to look like a dirt bag, carrying an empty ruck sack while everyone else hauled their own packs plus rifles after a long summer of training. My compromise was wearing a soft cap instead of a helmet. Good enough.

Sister #3 and me ready to ruck'n'roll.

Sister #3 and me ready to ruck’n’roll.

It was not good enough. I was fine for the first eleven or so miles of the ruck, but the last two miles were absolute agony. I’m not sure what changed, but I was limping along, pain splintering through my feet and radiating out of my hip.

My older sister, on the other hand, was like freaking Tigger, bouncing around and running back and forth in the formation, up and down the mountains, no issues whatsoever.

I reasoned that I must be out of shape. That had to be it. I just hadn’t trained properly for the ruck and I was just stupid enough to think that being excited about it would be good enough to get me through it. I’d be fine.

Step Three: Don’t Complain

After the March Back, we had a company run. My roommate (who had also completed the ruck the day before) and I fell back from the rest of the company after they set between a 7:30-8:00 minute/mile pace and finished the route on our own, limping up the stairs to our third-floor barracks room afterwards. I was angry that they had decided to run so fast (the Army standard for females on the PT test is two consecutive 9-minute miles) after they had promised that it would be a “slow, easy, espirit-de-corps, team-building, no-fallouts” kind of run. Instead I was exhausted, humiliated, and in legitimate physical pain. But if you blame your inability to keep up on being hurt, you get called a shammer or worse, so I didn’t say I was hurt or tired, I just kept my mouth shut and went on with my day. I wasn’t actually angry about the pace; I was angry about my inability to keep up.

The next day, however, there was a brigade run planned. It is one thing to fall back on a smaller, less organized cadet-led company run at West Point, and another thing entirely to fall out of a brigade run. The latter is a much higher visibility event, and you can land yourself in an actual disciplinary situation if you don’t stay with the group.

Feeling a little like a coward, I reported to sick call with the swollen, the broken, the fakers, and the blister-ridden New Cadets (accompanied by their Team Leaders) in the cavernous hallway of Arvin Gymnasium at 0530 while the rest of the able-bodied Corps formed up to run slinky-style up and down the mountains of West Point.

Step Four: Get Diagnosed With a Proximal Femoral Stress Fracture

“It’s probably nothing,” the polo-wearing guy told me after he finished checking out my hip. “But for females of your age and your build, sometimes there are bigger issues, so I’m ordering an x-ray and an MRI.”

So, that afternoon, I had my very first x-ray and MRI. I remember lying on my back looking up at the ceiling where someone had thought to paint the ceiling tiles with whimsical butterflies and flowers, presumably to help children with broken arms feel less frightened while they had pictures taken of their mangled bones. I was frankly pretty freaked out, considering I had made it to the ripe old age of 21 without ever having had a major surgery or scan or procedure or anything and my mommy was definitely not there to hold my hand. The x-ray was all right, but that MRI was a bitch.

It is, as my father says, “like being inside a coffin with a jackhammer.” They ask if you if you’re claustrophobic before they put you inside. Like if I say yes, do you have a half-size MRI machine that you can put me in so you don’t have to put my face in it? That’d be super. Also I’d like a quiet one. And a room that is warmer than Antarctica. Thank you. (I have developed a lot of opinions about MRIs over the last three years since this inaugural experience, having had many MRIs at several different facilities.)

Anyway, Mr. Polo Man from 0530 in Arvin that morning was Wrong-O.

“Proximal femoral stress fracture” was the radiologist’s call, which I think we can all agree is not “probably nothing.”

(Additionally, this was not the only problem hiding in my hip at the time, but they totally missed it, but I’m also getting ahead of myself. Moving on.)

Step Five: Crutches

Okay so here you go, here are your crutches, no weight bearing for a month, have a good life.

I won’t go into extreme detail, except to say that this SUCKED. If you’ve been on crutches you know how much they suck. If you’ve been a cadet you know how much that sucks. Imagine combining the two. In August. Welcome to Hell.

People used to ask me all kinds of obnoxious questions:


Those things almost became weapons at inappropriate moments so, so many times. I also wish very badly I had a dollar for every time the following happened:

– Someone let a door close on me

– Someone told me I couldn’t use the elevator unless I showed them a copy of my profile — no I don’t care if your class is on the sixth floor

— Someone said I was shamming

— Someone asked why I was sweaty

— A group of male cadets walked past talked about trou who use crutches to get out of stuff

— Someone said I should be grateful it wasn’t winter because at least the ground wasn’t icy

— Someone asked if I was lifting a lot instead since I couldn’t run (uh, yeah dude. My body. ALL FREAKING DAY.)

I would have several dollars. More dollars than I have now.

Step Six: All Better!

So then I got off the crutches and went to town on the elliptical and started a walk-to-run progression program. My follow-up x-ray and MRI were reportedly clear of signs of stress fracture, so I was healed!

Step Seven: Oh Wait, No I’m Not

…except that my hip still hurt. Running sucked, and at night I’d sit in my room studying while my stupid hip throbbed. (I also now lived on the fourth floor of the barracks instead of the third floor, so I had an extra floor of torture to climb to get to my room.)

I should alert a medical professional, right?


Step Eight: Fake It

Problem was that I reallyreallyreally wanted to graduate on time. And, due to the combination of my injury and my extreme suckitude at all things physical during my time at West Point, I was very behind on the physical requirements necessary to meet that goal. I needed to pass the Indoor Obstacle Course Test (a.k.a. the IOCT, otherwise known as How To Get Asbestos in Your Lungs Forever and Feel Like You’re Going to Die in Four Minutes or Less), and complete three Army Physical Fitness Tests (APFTs) in less than three months.

Let’s just say it was rough. Manfriend actually ran one of my two-miles with me — not so much to pace me for time, but just to stay beside me the whole time to say, “keep going, it’s okay, it’s okay, you just have to finish it and you can graduate” while I was practically in tears because I felt like my hip was exploding and the joint was going to collapse.

So, once all that was over and I was cleared for a May 2012 graduation and commission, I went back to physical therapy: hey Mr. Polo Dude. We have an issue.

Step Nine: Physical Therapy (including bonus torture!)

Physical therapy decided that my problem was just that my left leg had gotten very weak from not using it over the past few months, so all I needed were some good ol’ strengthening exercises and I’d be hot to trot.

They also thought I should try a round of acupuncture.

This was not one of my better decisions.

I have had real acupuncture here at Fort Hood since this experience from an actual physician (a.k.a. someone who knows what he’s doing) so I can say from experience that acupuncture isn’t bad. It wasn’t ever going to fix the tears in my hip or anything, but it did relieve some of the muscle tension.

I don’t know what they’re doing over there in Arvin Gym Physical Therapy at West Point, but they called it “deep needling” and it was HORRIBLE. First I signed a release form (we all make mistakes). Then I put on a pair of the big, super flattering shorts (of which I have worn many pairs over the years while dealing with my hip injury) and they stuck needles into my hip. Big ones.

The concept was that they would put them down into the deep muscles to release tension. Once they got waaaay down in there with the needles, they electrocuted the needles. I’m not even being dramatic. Another Mr. Polo Man put some kind of device on the ends of the needles and made them vibrate inside my muscles. I was really not okay with it. But. You know. Release form.

Then I acquired some nice second-degree burns by lying there under a heating pack for fifteen minutes afterwards and I was on my merry way. I was supposed to be sore for a day or two afterward then feel much, much better. Instead I was miserable for three days afterward and slightly more sore from then on out.

I stopped seeking medical treatment from the facilities at school, staggered through another PT test, miraculously graduated on time, and got the hell out of dodge.

I did some physical therapy at a clinic in my hometown during graduation leave, but I didn’t have much time there. They sent me off with some exercises and well-wishes. Whee.

Step Ten: Series of Scans

From there I was off to my basic officer course in Virginia, but the doctor there said since they weren’t my owning unit, I couldn’t do physical therapy. He recommended a bone scan once I got to Fort Hood.

The first doctor I saw at Fort Hood essentially told me I was a shammer (he was a former Infantry officer). Obviously if I was having trouble running I just wasn’t running enough, or with proper form. I did not go see him again.

I had a three-phase bone scan, which was positive in the blood pool phase for a soft tissue injury. The radiologist said that the area where the scan lit up was close to my uterus (you know…like…my…hip…joint…) and determined that all the scan showed was that I was menstruating. Which I was not. Not trying to be gross and freak out all the guys here, but I was rather distressed that a female radiologist tried to dismiss my hip injury by saying that the scan revealed I was merely having my period. (Which, again…I wasn’t.) Also: Get real, lady.

Then I had another regular x-ray and MRI. No evidence of stress fracture. (At this point it’s like, NO FREAKING KIDDING PEOPLE THE STRESS FRACTURE IS HEALED CAN WE JUST MOVE PAST THE STRESS FRACTURE THING ALREADY.)

Then I had an MRI with contrast. That’s where they inject the hip with a dye and then get the image instead of just a regular MRI. They’re like MRIs for royalty, clearly, instead of all those peasant MRIs I’d been having up that point.

Ha ha.

Unfortunately none of the peasant medical personnel could figure out what the dealio was from looking at my bone scan, x-rays, peasant MRIs and royal MRIs, so:

Step Eleven: You Must Need More Physical Therapy

And it was back to leg raises and resistance bands. Three sets of ten, please.

I expressed my concerns about not being able to do PT with my unit. After all, I was a new second lieutenant in my first unit. I had just taken over a platoon and I couldn’t run or ruck or do anything truly competitive with my Soldiers because my hip was all jacked up and nobody seemed to know how to fix it. Also I didn’t want to get fat, and my ability to do cardio was really starting to take a hit. A girl can only do so much biking and elliptical with a bum hip before she goes gym-rat-crazy.

No problem, they said:

Step Twelve: Let’s Try Pool PT

So, in the summer of 2013, I spent an hour and a half two or three times each week swimming laps and doing pool calisthenics in one of the pools on post with a sort of bored instructor who never spelled our names correctly on his sign-in roster and just wanted to make sure no one was in physical therapy to get out of an upcoming deployment.

Most of my fellow workout buddies didn’t seem too happy to be there. A few of them were chronic complainers (“You mean we have to go down and back?”) and some of them were outright afraid of the water. One guy thought he was going to get out of participating in pool PT altogether by pretending like the water was too cold.

My sisters and I had a pair of dachshunds that tried that trick too. In the winter they’d stand outside by the window and shiver until someone noticed them and say, “oh no, the dogs are cold!” and then insist they be brought inside so they’d be warm. This technique was extremely effective on multiple occasions, but then the little wieners blew it by trying it in July, effectively shutting down their act for good.

This guy was basically the same way. Come on, guy. It’s June. In Texas. At noon. The water is not cold. You’re a grown-ass man. Stop shivering. No one believes you right now.

Anyway, following these sessions I returned to physical therapy and reported that while exercising in the pool was all fine and dandy, there was no marked improvement in my hip. In fact, it hurt just as much as it had before we began pool PT.

“Hmm,” the therapist said. He made me demonstrate the at-home exercises he had given me.

I showed him three or four of them. He wanted to see more. I probably had about a dozen. By the time I got to the eighth one or so, I realized he wasn’t just reviewing them with me for my benefit; he was quizzing me. He essentially accused me of either not doing the exercises or doing them incorrectly, and that was why my hip wasn’t getting any better.

pitch perfect - aca-scuse me
Right. Because I love not being able to run. Because I love my hip hurting all the time. Because I love the embarrassment of being twenty-three years old and on a permanent walking profile because they told me I had to quit going from temporary-to-temporary profile and should just be a walker until they figured out what was going on with my hip.

It is fan-freaking-tastic.

You think that if getting well was as simple as some exercises at home every night with a stupid resistance band that I wouldn’t be living in a warehouse of resistance bands? I’d be doing those exercises in front of the stove, the washing machine, the television, and in the damn bathtub if that was what they said I should be doing. I’d get up in the middle of the night and do leg raises by the light of a full moon in a field of daisies.

Like come on, guy. Of course I’m doing the exercises.

It took a lot not to lose my temper at that point (and I don’t often lose my temper). I calmly requested that I be allowed to explore other options for treatment. This led to the next clinic:

Step Thirteen: Physical Medicine

A very magical thing happened in physical medicine. They injected my hip with cortisone.

It. Was. Amazing.

Well, at first it was really crappy. Any time there is fluid in your joint it hurts (also, shots, but I’ve had so many at this point I am sort of developing a needle immunity), but once the swelling goes down, the steroids made my hip feel GREAT. I ran again. Technically, I jogged, but still. It was spectacular. We had found a cure!

The steroid injections are supposed to give relief for at least 90 days, and up to a year. Some people have one injection every year, and they are good to hook. Other people have them twice a year. The catch is that you can’t have them more than four times annually (i.e. every three months/90 days).

Well. My magic shot only lasted a little over a month. Once three months had passed, I had another. That one lasted even less time. I told the doctor that it wasn’t really working out, but he just recommended that we do acupuncture more frequently. At this point, the acupuncture released tension in my low back for an afternoon and then I was back to the same level of pain with no relief in my hip.

This brings us to:

Step Fourteen: Almost Die Again

In June of this year I started falling down.

For no reason whatsoever (as far as I could tell) my hip would give out and I would fall down. It was incredibly painful, incredibly scary, and leave me breathless and tearful. But, as a doctor told me when I went to be evaluated (because it didn’t happen just once or twice, but multiple times) I was a “perfectly healthy twenty-four year old female” so it was “probably a bad idea to be looking at surgical options this early in life” and he “wasn’t really comfortable giving a referral to ortho” but he’d do it to get me out of his triage room, essentially.

I was pretty tired of doctors telling me I didn’t need surgery.

I get it. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a medical professional. I have a bachelor’s degree in English. I get it.

BUT, at the same time, we’ve done rest, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, acupuncture, steroid injections into the hip, and every freaking scan known to modern medicine. I think we need to talk about surgery. For some reason, however, all these doctors considered that “the nuclear option” and “you don’t want hip surgery” and “you’re too young for a hip replacement.” DID I SAY HIP REPLACEMENT, BUDDY?! I had actually gone to a civilian hip specialist in Austin several months before and been diagnosed with femoral acetabular hip impingement, or FAI. This guy, who specialized in sports medicine and frequently took care of University of Texas athletes who went on to compete in the Olympics, said it was very possible that I had a tear in my labrum, but that my hip was definitely impinged, and that’s why it was popping and hurting all the time and keeping me from running or squatting correctly.

The Army was like, uhhh, femoral ace-what? No, no. That’s silly. You need to do physical therapy.

Step Fifteen: More Scans

I had an emergency cortisone injection that allowed me to limp around for the next month or so, which is how long it took to get the appointments for my next x-ray, MRI with contrast, and bone scan (which is what they wanted to see before I could see an orthopedic surgeon).


I’d like to highly recommend you bring your own fuzzy Christmas socks along if you’re an MRI acolyte. Your toes will freeze. #protips

When the results of the scans came back, they were thus:

* X-ray: Nothing. Because I don’t have a stress fracture. This is my surprised face.

* Bone scan: My right side is getting all messed up because I always walk/stand/lean on it because the left side no worky. Otherwise “unremarkable.” (I actually hate that term. I also hate “well-nourished.” Read your doctor’s notes some time, people. They’ll make you sound fat.)

* MRI: Anterior labral tear (a.k.a. my bones hath rent the front of my hip). Again. This is my surprised face. It is also the reason I was falling down.

Okay, said the Army. I guess you can have surgery.

Step Sixteen: Break Down on the Phone to Clueless and Uncaring Receptionists

It is hard to schedule surgery. My referral got lost, passed around, and kicked between offices like a hacky sack for weeks. I would try to schedule things with different people and got some lessons in the school of hard knocks. People are mean. People do not care. I actually started crying on the phone one day with this one heinous lady who worked in a certain orthopedics clinic and I’m pretty sure the only reason she didn’t hang up on me is because her customer satisfaction rating would go down if she had done so.

Step Seventeen: Schedule Surgery

I also had a nerve conduction study while we were effing around and doing nothing and I was tearing up the inside of my hip by just being alive and ambulating from place to place because they wanted to make sure I didn’t have any nerve damage. When you walk in the room it looks like some kind of vintage torture chamber.

We saved the squishy chair of torment especially for you!

We saved the squishy chair of torment especially for you!

Then they electrocute you with this little buddy up and down your leg, using increasing levels of electromagnetic shocks to determine if your nerves are reacting correctly and recruiting the right way.


Looks so friendly!

My nerves. All normally, apparently. I am somewhat suspicious of this.

My nerves. All normal apparently. I am somewhat suspicious of this.

Clearly black magic was at play.

But, good news, taxpayers of America! The Army has decided that I don’t have any nerve damage that has resulted from my hip injury, and therefore will not be footing an additional medical bill.

It was a fun morning. Back to the office!

It was a fun morning. Back to the office!

Step Eighteen: Have Surgery

Eventually I did manage to schedule my surgery. Fort Hood doesn’t have a hip guy, and Tricare refused to pay for any civilian providers in the area, so heigh-ho heigh-ho, it was off to San Antonio we’d go. But I was ready to go. I’d been thinking I was on the road to recovery since the fall of 2011 and here it was the fall of 2014 and I was only getting worse.

When I finally met them, I unintentionally tormented my surgical team.

I really didn’t mean to do it, but I have this binder that I have built over the years that contains all the documentation related to my hip injury. I bring it with me to all my appointments so I can get the latest doctor spun up on my old problems. So when I finally met my surgical team, I think I broke their bright, shiny intern hearts with my intense amount of documentation (“Is that binder just for your hip?”), cold medical terminology, and cynicism in their ability to treat me.

Their eyebrows went up when I described the different methods I’d had for the cortisone injections, and explained that I was encountering diminishing efficacy with that treatment. This is apparently not normal patient jargon. I am not a normal patient. I MEAN BIZNAZZ.

I also didn’t really have any interest in talking to them. I wanted to see the real surgeon. The man of the hour. The guy who does the sawing. So I didn’t cut them much slack.

SURGICAL TEAM: So what are your goals for surgery?

ME: I’m getting married in December. Am I going to be able to walk by then?

SURGICAL TEAM: You should be off crutches after about four or five weeks.

ME: I need you to be a little more exact. Like, can I go ahead and buy the heels I want for my wedding, or should I just invest in some of those shoes with the pop-out wheels and have my dad wheel me down the aisle?

One of the interns had a coughing attack at the back of the room.


SURGICAL TEAM: One potential method of anesthetic for your surgery would be a nerve block on your leg. So your whole leg would be numb. Also your leg would be put into traction for the surgery to isolate your hip joint during surgery. There is a risk with both of these things that the numbness is permanent.

ME: Do what?

SURGICAL TEAM: It’s extremely rare. Feeling nearly always returns to the leg within a day or two and nerve damage from the surgery is even more rare.

ME: Yeah, but like…how far up does the numbness go?


ME: Like…mid-thigh? Top of the thigh? Higher? I don’t really use this part of my leg, but I mean, if it goes super high…I have a honeymoon to attend.

I have never seen three grown men turn red so fast in all my life.

Luckily once my actual surgeon showed up he seemed a little older (barely) than them and less easy to intimidate. My mom spent an extensive amount of time stalking his qualifications and publications prior to my surgery, so we were feeling pretty good about it by the time the fateful morning at last arrived.

I was the first case. They called me back, where I had to talk to yet another random resident in scrubs who had probably never seen any of my case history until right at that moment.

“Good morning,” he said kindly, looking down at a stack of papers in a folder with my name on it. “Can you tell me what you’re here for today?”

I knew this game. This game was “you have to tell us what you’re here for so you can’t sue us for doing the wrong thing.”

“Yes sir,” I said. “I have femoral acetabular hip impingement and an anterior labral tear on the left side. Dr. Burns will be doing my surgery. They’re going to do a nerve block. I don’t have any allergies. Except cats. Will there be cats in the operating room?”

Somehow people don’t know to respond to this. Sheesh guy, lighten up. I’m the one who’s about to have my leg pulled out of its socket, not you. (Incidentally, the right answer was “I’m having surgery on my left hip.” I got bonus points for jargon and then lost them for the weird cat joke at 6 a.m.)

I actually couldn’t wait to get into the OR. I wanted to see all the things and remember all the things so I could write about it later in a snarky fashion. But you know what they do to you right before you go into the operating room? They take away your glasses, and I am basically blind. I had to get a Department of Defense waiver to get into the Army because I am THAT nearsighted, so guess what I could see in the OR? Nothing. I was extremely annoyed.

I laid on my bed and stared at all the people moving around me all blurry for a while. There was a guy behind a curtain across from me who was apparently getting knee surgery that morning, and he was a real whiner. Frankly I didn’t think he deserved it if he was going to complain so much. I made sure to let everyone know that I wanted to be there. Then I got bored and started reading my chart because they just left it on my belly. They were slowly pumping drugs into my catheter, so I was getting quite warm and comfortable.

“Why do all these say ‘well-nourished’?” I demanded.

“It just means you’re healthy,” a nice Asian lady assured me. “As opposed to malnourished.”

“Why doesn’t it say ‘slender and beautiful’ or something? I find this vaguely insulting. Can I file a complaint?”

They were laughing at me at this point but they were also slipping drugs into my bloodstream so I wasn’t exactly in the correct frame of mind to cut back on the sassy talk. Sometimes I am a nervous talker, and I was a little anxious about not being able to see and ready to have the surgery over with.

“What about ‘reasonably nourished’? I really think they should re-think this system.” In between all this I had to keep removing the chart from my nose (I am so nearsighted that I was holding it about two inches from my face to be able to read it) to recite my name and date of birth and which hip they were operating on. I could also hear the name, DOB, and ailment of Whiny Knee Guy across from me, which you would think would be some kind of HIPAA violation, except that I was way too doped up at that point to retain any information about him except that he was annoying me.

Finally they put even more drugs into my arm (the anesthetist team called it my margarita cocktail) and the nice Asian lady asked if she could have my chart back, so I consented.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up, and I could not find my mother.

“Where’s Mom?” I asked the blurry person.

“You’re in Recovery One,” she said. “You can see her in Recovery Two.”

“Actually I can’t see anything until you give me my glasses back,” I informed Miss Sassy Blurry Pants.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my mother was making the same inquiries in her own holding area. “She needs her glasses! Her engagement ring! Her bear! Her Snow White blanket!” (Mothers understand priorities in a way that hospitals do not.)

Soon I was reunited with both my mother and my vision. I insisted on taking selfies and demanded to be discharged at once so I could visit my bunny. I ate three popsicles and spent some time poking my leg, which had become like a long, fleshy brick on my body.

You almost can

I was too excited about that popsicle to realize that it wasn’t going to keep me from coughing for four days after surgery because they stuck a tube down my throat.

Step Nineteen: Convalesce

I spent the month of October doped up on Percocet, unable to walk, while my parents took care of me. I was extremely fortunate in this regard since Army healthcare has been so negligent that my mom is a nurse and my dad is a doctor, so I had top-of-the-line in-home healthcare.

I had a lot of lofty ambitions and plans for my thirty days of convalescent leave. I would do all the things I dream of doing while I’m not doing Army Things. I’d bake and sew and scrapbook and be domestic. I’d binge-watch Netflix. I’d write a blog entry every week. I’d finish all the books I had read half or three-quarters or one-seventeenth or other sad fractions of up to that point. Yes, people. I had plans.

Instead I spent my time sleeping more than half the day and trying to remember what time I was supposed to take my pills. My parents fed me and made me wear compression stockings and propped me up on a bike every day and made me move my legs in sad circles so I wouldn’t get a blood clot and die. Bathing was an adventure every single day. I have an immense amount of respect for handicapped people and those who assist them, because if I were permanently unable to use my lower limbs I’d just give up and quit leaving the house. Seriously not worth the effort. Do you have any idea how heavy your leg is when it doesn’t move by itself? It’s obscene. That thing needs to go on a diet. Not me. My leg.

Step Twenty: Crutches

Oh, my old friends. I named them this time: Leonidas and Jane Austen. My dad nicknamed me the Duchess of Crutches. I have killer triceps. I am basically an orangutan at this point.

Upper body strength for days.

Upper body strength for days.

I even have a comparable gut now that my abdominal strength has deteriorated at an alarming rate.

I even have a comparable gut now that my abdominal strength has deteriorated at an alarming rate.

Actually I am weaning off them; I only have to use one now. My older sister has taken to calling me Tiny Tim. ‘Tis the Season. I’m not telling you whether I’m using Jane Austen or Leonidas because I’m not playing favorites.

Step Twenty-One: Physical Therapy

So now I’m sore and tired all the time and waiting to not be sore and tired anymore.

The hip was basically bone-on-bone, grinding away in there. They shaved down the pelvis and femur so that it should now rotate properly in the socket. They also sewed up the labrum and reattached it where it had gotten ground off.

Heres some science on it. Thanks, Internet!

Here’s some science on it. Thanks, Internet!

I have real pictures of the inside of my hip but Manfriend says they’re gross so I won’t put them on the Internet. Basically:


Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

The doctors told me at my six-week follow-up that I couldn’t expect to begin to see benefit from the surgery until I was at least three months out. And I was just sitting there on the crinkly paper (May I just say that I have grown quite weary of sitting on the crinkly paper and talking to strange men about my hips at this juncture in my young life?) trying to figure out the least insubordinate way to tell a captain and a major that was an unsatisfactory answer to me. Like, I’m sure you two are very nice young men are you probably worked very hard in medical school. However, comma, I have goals in life. I have dreams. One of those dreams is not letting my life revolve around my damn hip anymore. Can we stop riding the hip train and get the hip on the Kelley train? Can we do that?

But noooo, it’s all, we shaved down bone in your hip, it has to regrow, it’s not a particularly vascular area so the healing process is slower, labral tears heal differently in every body, blah, blah, BLAH. Just shenanigans. Let’s get a move on, people. Let’s get some vascularity going, hip.


I haven’t gotten to this step quite yet, but I will in just twenty-five short days. I am rehabbing my hardest to ensure that there is no thug limp walk, only an ethereal gliding on my wedding day, but I suppose a little swagger never hurt anyone.

That, dear friends, is the tale of how I had hip surgery.


Filed under Lists

Three Wedding Lies (as told by Disney)

I have fallen short on my promise to provide updates (as sort-of-kind-of promised here) concerning wedding planning this year, but life has been pretty hectic. Doing most of it myself, however, has taught me a thing or two about the wedding industry, confirming most of my suspicions about the racket they’ve got going. One thing I hadn’t thought about recently, though, were all the ridiculous things Disney sneakily slipped into their wedding scenes in their classic cartoons. Well I’m onto you now, Disney, and I’m here to expose the truth. Here are three of their most egregious lies:

1 . You Will Look Perfect

You will not gain or lose weight (which means your dress will fit perfectly). Nor will you bloat up, get pimples like an anxious fifteen-year old who can’t remember geometric proofs, or have major hip surgery three months prior to walking down the aisle, causing you to be in frantic rehab mode two months prior to your wedding date in the hopes that you will actually be able to walk down said aisle. Basically, life/stuff/evil sea witches casting spells are going to happen, but it is not going to stop you from looking like an angel on your big day, because you are The Bride, and The Bride must always look perfect.

Remember this scene?

Ariel 1

“Gosh, Scuttle, I hope we have enough dinglehoppers to go around for the cake!”

I would like to point out several things.

1. Ariel is sixteen and there is nary a zit to be found on her salty little mermaid face.

2. All this is happening on the ocean (which equals hair destroying wind and water), and her big ol’ fluffy bangs are firmly in place. As both a Former Debutante and an Army Bun Hair Nazi, I am confident that this is not going to happen. Ever.

3. Unless those things are filled with tulle, those sleeves would have definitely fallen due to the aforementioned humidity.

4. Where did that dress come from? Did Grimsby just put an army of seamstresses to work as soon as she showed up and Eric started all that crazy talk? “She’s the one, Grim!” And he’s like, “Well, I don’t love the idea of my liege lord marrying a mysterious, mute ginger sea urchin, but I guess it’s better than an end to the royal line, so might as well have someone take her measurements and get going on a gown in case we need it.”

I suppose we can chalk most of this first one up to royal money (both on land and sea since they’re both royalty) and magic, but either way there are some fishy (ha ha) things going on here. Future brides, don’t be deceived. Your wedding is not happening on a ship surrounded by singing merpeople, and unless your dad is king of the ocean, you are probably not getting a rainbow drawn in the sky on demand at the end of your I-do’s. Just prepare yourself.

I am being a little more realistic and trying to expose these Disney lies to you in advance. I just had hip surgery. I am 59 days away from my wedding. You know what the Internet says I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my beauty regimen? Exfoliating my face and my body. Adding another thirty minutes to my gym routine so I’ll be super toned for the big day. Tanning. Whitening my teeth. Taking lots of vitamins. Yoga.

That’s all good information. I’ll get right on that. Let me just pop a couple Percocet, strip off my compression stockings that I have to wear to prevent blood clots, and saddle up on the ol’ crutches so I can get started. Get serious people. I can’t even walk right now. I’m like the Duchess of Crutches of over here. “Gym routine.” My gym routine is isolating my mushy, nonexistent quadriceps on my left leg. Sometimes I pat it and cheer it on to get it motivated. Sometimes I yell at it: “DO YOU WANT TO WALK DOWN THAT AISLE OR WHAT?” I don’t think it’s listening.

2. Logistics Are NBD and Everybody Can Be Our Guest

I’m going to start this one with the assumption that Belle and the Beast are getting married at the end of Beauty and the Beast. Maybe that’s a big, fat, Republican assumption, and what they’re really doing is just having a Yay We’re Not Household Objects Anymore party, but there are enough signs in the final scene of the movie that point to a wedding reception, so I’m just going to go with it.

Belle 2

This is clearly a lavish wedding present.

There are counter-arguments that could be made for why the final scene of Beauty and the Beast is not a wedding reception, but there are also a lot of plot holes in the movie, so I’m not currently accepting offers of dissension. Additionally, yes, I do see that Belle’s dress is gold, not white, as per our tradition. But hey, they’re French. What are you gonna do? Moving on.

Those pillars didn't decorate themselves, people.

Those pillars didn’t decorate themselves, people. I smell a reception.

I want to know who arranged all this.

I know there’s a castle full of staff standing around the happy, dancing, swirling, waltzing couple, but the timeline of the movie leads you to believe that this all happens within a relatively short period of time. My best guess would be that Mrs. Potts would be the one cracking the whip on getting a wedding together quickly, but at the same time, she’s been sleeping in a cupboard with her kid and a bunch of other flatware for years. The woman probably could go for a few nights’ sleep in a bed of her own, a massage, and a cup of tea she didn’t have to pour out of her own nose. Instead she’s probably chasing down Lumiere and Cogsworth, trying to get them to get some real work done for a wedding and reception she had dumped on her, but they’re probably too busy hiding their rising flames and pendulums while Miss Feather Duster sashays on by. Like, congratulations, the spell is broken, Widow Cogsworth, now plan somebody else’s gigantic wedding for tomorrow!

Someone had to make sure all these crazies showed up. Someone had to get those floors waxed. Someone had to ensure the windows were washed. You think that harpist just appeared? No. There was a contract, deposit, and insurance. Stop lying to us, Disney! (Also you will note that Belle’s Papa is present but he’s sporting They Threw Me in the Insane Asylum Chic, which I hear is very in this season. That guy has other issues, so we’ll give him credit for making it to the big day and not getting carried off by either some kind of bug-like carriage device or a lynch mob in the night.)

Belle 3

Somebody trimmed the topiaries too, guys.

Real weddings are not like this! You have to pick all kinds of things you don’t care about, like stationary and tablecloths and times for people to show up places. I am basically the worst bride ever, because I’m like, look. We have a place to get married in and a person to marry us and I have this white dress to wear and it’s great and I’m great and Manfriend’s great, and afterward there will be food, so what are all these other questions? But nooooo. Everyone’s all, details, details, details.

I’m really just bitter because I bet Belle had a plated dinner, a candy bar, a photo booth, and fireworks at the end of the night and never had some snotty vendor tell her that date was unavailable, signed any contracts, or signed a single check.

Belle 6

She had the cake tasting during “Be Our Guest” and didn’t even know it. Also, free. Not real. Disney lies.

Belle 5

“Try the gray stuff; it’s delicious!”

Belle 4

I’m doing the calculations for this champagne toast and the numbers are astronomical. Their taxpayers would be well within their rights to storm the castle at this point.

3. It’s Okay to Throw Rice

The place where Manfriend and I are getting married has a strict no-fire policy. (I think if you violate it they throw you into a fire, actually. Or just keep your damage deposit, whichever is more convenient to them.) So no candles on the tables, no sparkler send-off, etc. I didn’t really care about it until I realized that we couldn’t launch lanterns into the air a la Tangled. I already had to let go of my fireworks dream due to budget constraints (elephant rides, puppies as party favors, and hiring Michael Buble’ to sing also had to get scratched from the list) but it turns out the lantern thing is pretty affordable.

Still, the lanterns were nixed since (clearly) they require fire to make them float magically up into the sky. One of the people at the venue suggested bubbles, bird seed, rice, or flower petals instead.

Which of course I found hilarious. No fire, but you can either feed the birds or destroy them. (Tuppence a bag.) I know throwing rice used to be a thing, but now nobody does it anymore because birds will eat it off the ground the next day and then they will explode. So basically these people either want you to use bird food, or innocuous-looking bird detonation devices.

That’s cool.

I had briefly considered using rice since it’s cheap and it looks good before I remembered it would make me a bird murderer, imagining the end scene from Cinderella. It’s sort of like my position on corgis: if they’re good enough for the Queen of England, they’re good enough for me. (Also, Manfriend, she has like seven. I just want one. Please. Okay, plug for corgis over.) But that’s what I figured about the rice: if it was good enough for Cinderella’s hoity-toity magical wedding, it was good enough for my once-very-elaborate-but-now-downgraded-somewhat-due-to-my-not-being-an-heiress-to-an-oil-fortune budgetary constraints.

Here’s where the Disney lie comes into play. Observe Cindy and Charming leaving their wedding in style while the only parent they apparently have between the two of them looks on with his twitchy monocled adviser:

Cinderella end scene

Rice/confetti/big mess for the servants to pick up later EVERYWHERE

Cinderella in carriage

Look at all that rice. Such waste. Such danger.

...the birds at the top of this page, sadly, did not.

…the birds at the top of this page, sadly, did not.

I have a theory about this, however. The rice and the death and the destruction and all that jazz. The mice were behind it.

Look how happy they are! They know they’ve already won. Like, here you go, you bird brains! Have fun holding up that veil; there ain’t enough room for both of us in the castle.

"Tweet tweet, suckers!"

“Tweet tweet, suckers!”

Just like the mice were behind Cinderella getting her Happily Ever After, they wanted to make sure those pesky birds didn’t usurp their place as her helpers when she moved into the castle with Charming. We’ve seen this time and time again throughout history. Things turn ugly when people (and mice) have a chance to gain some power. The seedy, Orwellian underbelly of Disney politics.

All I can say is it’s a good thing Manfriend is a much better prince than still-in-the-closet Eric, anger issues Beast, and zero personality Charming, since it sort of looks like the Disney weddings are probably more satisfying than the resulting Disney marriages. Duchess of Crutches out.


Filed under Lists, Wedding

In Which Being a Grown-Up is the Worst

When I was a kid I thought grown-ups were so boring.

Either that or they were just pretending. Surely they were just speaking in some kind of unfathomable grown-up code. Nobody could actually be interested in the mundane topics they always seemed to be bringing up voluntarily, could they?

Wow Bob, looks like rain.

Sure do need it, Susan.

You know that’s right, Bob.

And how about that construction over on the loop?

Well it really wasn’t that causing the congestion this morning, Bob; it was that fender bender over there on Magnolia Street!

Was that James’s boy?

Sure was, Susan. Such a nice kid — just a shame.

Oh you know those insurance rates are just going to skyrocket!

Blah. Blah. BLAH.

I used to stand in a kind of stupor in the grocery store while my mom got roped into one of these types of conversations and try to slink away to find something more interesting to do. You know, like stare blankly into a freezer or read ingredient labels or pretend the floor was lava and step from tile to tile until even that got boring, and I began to wish that the floor would open up and swallow me into its magma-filled abyss, since that at least would be more interesting than the conversation that my mother and I were being forced to endure while shopping for sustenance for our home. Maybe this is why people farmed for so long–not because they couldn’t figure out how to industrialize, specialize, then package and ship goods to stores for retail, but because they’d rather get up at the butt crack of dawn and milk their own cows on a daily basis instead of getting trapped, shivering, in the milk aisle by some guy they vaguely know from a church they used to go to, so they can talk about the weather for so long that rain becomes just a vague recollection.

Honey Boo Boo isn't about this life either

So this is why I am ashamed to make this confession: Here I am at the tender age of not-yet-twenty-five, and I have begun the wretched transformation into one of these capable, intelligent human beings who suddenly, for no apparent reason, morphs into an unbearably boring zombie caricature of my vibrant self.

Yes. I am becoming a Grown-Up.

(Or a Grup, as my sisters and like to call them, based off this one Star Trek episode we really liked.)

Here are some things that I found not even remotely interesting circa 1998:

– Seasonal allergies

– Turning off the lights when you leave the room

– Pet dander

– Waiting until the dishwasher was full to run it

– How fast grass grows

– Traffic

– Zoning laws

– The cost of a gallon of milk

– When we might be getting some rain again, Bob

– Gas mileage (Although it is fair here to note that I did not have a driver’s license until 2006.)

As of 2014 I have some level of interest in every single item on that heinously mundane list. This is not okay with me.

But you know why all of the things on the list are suddenly interesting? It seems that my parents were sheltering me throughout my childhood from a very unfortunate reality about adulthood: it costs money. Lots of it.

Turns out the magic of childhood is not in the way that clothes appeared in my closet or sheets appeared on my bed or food appeared on the table, but the fact that I did not have to put them there, work for the funds that made them available, pay taxes to make them legal, or, most magically of all, ever wonder about any of the economic process whatsoever. And everything on that list in some way leads to something that ends up costing money.

I’m learning it’s not all doom and gloom, however. If you have a nice Manfriend, the two of you can have an extended conversation about which gender roles you will choose to adhere to in your marriage and decide how to assign tasks accordingly. I like to think of it as Domestic Utilitarianism.

For example, I don’t really like to cook, but Manfriend is really good at making Fancy Chef Ramsey Food, so he cooks, and I follow him around with a sponge and a bottle of 409 and do all the dishes, and at the end of the night we’re both fed, and I didn’t have to cook, and he didn’t have to clean, so we’re both happy. He cooks; I bake; clearly we’re both going to end up fat even though I don’t fulfill the traditionally female role of meal preparation. Just gotta play to our strengths. (And I’d say we’re both very gifted eaters. Why yes, I would like another scoop of spaghetti. Thanks.)

I invite you now to take special note of the “how fast grass grows” item on my list. This one is important, because it has implications beyond just the length of a lawn. It encompasses watering, mowing, edging, and fertilizing that lawn. It involves monitoring that lawn for pests and disposing of those pests accordingly. It involves understanding what type of soil you have. It involves maintenance. It is a gigantic pain in the butt. Guess which item on the list Manfriend volunteered for in order to properly maintain our level of Domestic Utilitarianism?

I am basically content to let the grass die. But my dad and stepmom came to visit over the summer and bought us some trees as a housewarming gift. Then my dad and Manfriend spent the rest of the weekend hauling bricks and deciding where to plant them and digging holes and basically doing a lot of things I dislike (moving heavy things outdoors in the heat in the dirt surrounded by bugs) while I got to stay inside. So I feel like I owe it to them to be a good steward of their gift by taking care of the trees.

Apparently this means watering the poor little dears every morning and every freaking night. Like what the heck. These greedy bastards are so scraggly and unimpressive and yet so DEMANDING. Even Betty is doing her part by providing ample fertilizer. Still this does not change the fact that I did not sign on for any freaking yard work but I’m out there twice a day–before the sun comes up and after the sun goes down–like some kind of non-mustached Lorax, trying to drown these damn agua-holic trees.


Also when you are outside watering your helpless baby trees, you discover other unpleasant, nature-related things. Like fire ants. WHERE DO THEY KEEP COMING FROM. I think they’re growing inside the grass. Like at night the grass all gets together and has a secret meeting while I’m asleep about how it’s being neglected in Manfriend’s absence, and to teach me a lesson, it’s going to sprout ant beds every week in random places across the lawn.

“Oh? Not going to water us again, are you? Well, we’ll just see about that…” FIRE ANTS, GRASSHOPPERS, HORRIFYING-LOOKING LIZARDS. Bam, bam, bam. “Enjoy watering your lawn. …Bitch.”

Don’t tell me I’m being dramatic. My lawn is out to get me because it’s jealous that it doesn’t get watered every day like the lawn next door, which is owned by some zealous over-waterers who really need to calm down, since they’re making all the other lawns in the neighborhood jealous. It’s like bringing your kid Panera or Chick-fil-A for lunch every day when you know all his classmates are just getting soggy PB&J’s in hand-me-down lunchboxes. That’s just wrong.

And anyway, who really cares how green your lawn is, crazy neighbors? Are you competing in the Hey Everybody, Look How Green My Lawn Is Today competition that Fort Hood isn’t holding? Such a waste of time. Such a waste of money.

There are other wretched Grup topics that I foist upon innocent bystanders. I talk about how busy I am at work. I talk about my water bill. I talk about how high my energy bill is during the summer. These are terrible, boring, Grup-like things to do. I know it. I am confessing it to you here. BUT… If my stupid trees would become responsible adult trees and provide me some shade on my house I could have fewer conversations about my energy bill.

That is a lie.

I would have the same number of conversations about my energy bill, but instead they would just go something like, “It’s amazing how much less our energy bill is in the summer now that our house gets some shade from those whiny, high-maintenance Lorax-tended baby trees!”

I have to go now. The aforementioned trees are ready for their water. I can’t wait till they become tall, dependable, shade-providing, boring Grup trees that will bore the baby trees next door to tears. Lady Lorax out.

Lady Lorax

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Five Things I’m Over This Week

Labor Day Weekend was delightful. Then I had to go back to work. And it was a looooong four-day week. I would like to briefly update you on the top five things I am quite finished with this week.

o People Who Have Deleted the Facebook Messenger App…AND WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE KNOWS IT

I know a lot of people were up in arms about having two separate apps on their phone for Facebook when they first came out with the new messenger app. I actually didn’t mind it at first, because I thought maybe it would make the original app run more efficiently, cut down on glitches, solve world hunger, improve my vocabulary, and help me lose 30 pounds in 30 days! (Essentially, I really didn’t care.) But as I continued to use it, the messenger app became a digital thorn in my side.

I couldn’t figure out how to permanently turn off the notifications, so every day I’d go into the app and choose the “disable notifications until 8 am” choice, or whatever the option was that was furthest away. I looked in the Facebook Help section and searched online and couldn’t figure out how to permanently disable it, which leads me to believe that there is not a way to do it at all…and I do not appreciate that, Mark Zuckerberg. Tell your people.

So because I was tired of the app binging at me and putting my friends’ face bubbles in the corner of my phone, I finally just uninstalled it. And when I want to use FB messenger on my phone, I log in to Facebook on a mobile browser and go from there. Problem solved. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be a good enough solution for several of my friends.





Obviously I’m paraphrasing, but really. Some people have been pretty dramatic about it. And I say this as a child who grew up in a household where my father made us put tape over the built-in camera on our laptops because he was convinced someone was going to randomly hack into our computers and track our every dull-eyed facial expression while we built an unimpressive Neopets empire and waited for Backstreet Boys music videos to buffer.


o The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Let me immediately clarify: I am not over the giving of money to charitable organizations. I do it occasionally and really should keep better records, because then I could take it off my taxes. I think all of us should give more frequently to organizations that we think are worthwhile

In fact, here’s a quick plug for an app that will allow you to give to a few great charities–and it won’t cost you a cent:

Install CharityMiles on your phone (they have it for both you iPhone zombies and for us Droid believers of the world), sign up within the app, then pick a charity. Enable the GPS for your workout, keep your phone on you, and go. Bikers earn 10¢ per mile and walkers and runners earn 25¢ a mile. I choose the Wounded Warrior Project every time, but they also have Habitat for Humanity, Autism Speaks, ASPCA, Alzheimer’s Association, and more.

charity miles

But I am tired of watching people dump buckets of ice water over their heads. Just donate money to a great cause. Nobody cares if you’re cold and wet any more. The Internet is over it. We have moved on. Kermit the Frog has now participated in the ice bucket challenge so you really can’t top it at this point. Just give money to make someone’s life better instead of wasting 15-75 seconds of our lives watching your video, since at this point we’ve all seen so many of them that we know about ALS. And if you don’t, you didn’t bother to look it up when your news feed was awash in an icy torrent of activism, in which case, you probably kind of suck.

o Taylor Swift

Her freaking ridiculous new song has apparently topped the charts for the second week in a row. I was hoping when we hadn’t heard from her in a while that she was going to slow fade away, as is proper, praise be to Allah, thank Thor, Alleluia He is Risen Indeed, etc. But apparently her silence just meant that she was plugging away in the studio at an album of defamation to my poor, innocent birth year.

Every night I say my prayers and end with, “And please God let the world stop worshiping at the altar of Taylor Swift, and may she never appear in the news, or the tabloids, or the fashion magazines, or the Twitter, or the Internet, ever again, and also please let her not put out any more albums because everyone will realize that she is overrated and we are tired of her because her country-girl-ingénue persona has got to give out eventually, right?”  I don’t think she’s bad or evil. Just overrated and annoying and I am ready for her to go away. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

#genuflectforTaylor #gagme (Side note: if you’re not following Feminist Taylor Swift on Twitter, you are seriously missing out.)

Feminist Taylor Swift

o 40% Sales

I love Hobby Lobby. It’s my happy place. But for the last two weeks, they have been irksome to me. They have all their fall items and Christmas items marked 40%. Great. Super. Yay. Wow.


JUST MARK IT 50% ALREADY LIKE I KNOW YOU ARE EVENTUALLY GOING TO DO. Better yet, just make me really happy and mark it all 66% and then I’ll go in there and blow all my money and you’ll be happy too. 40% is a stupid percentage to put things on sale. Either go half-off, because that makes sense, or go higher, because then everyone feels like they are getting a steal (not a deal, a steal, because then you’re like an extreme couponer except you didn’t have to ruin your life by becoming an extreme couponer).

hobby lobby

o Unrelenting Summer Heat While Everyone Loses Their Damn Minds Over Pumpkin Spice-Flavored Everything

It’s not even like it’s really cooling off up New England either. The weather at West Point as of Friday afternoon was “87, feels like 92.”

Wow. Brr. Put on a sweater. Where are my gloves? Chilly. Can you see my breath?

No. You cannot. Because it is basically still summer, but because everybody is sweating their butts off in classrooms and cubicles around America, we are all apparently in denial about the fact that it is simply not fall yet. Today I tried to pretend it was fall by turning the heat on my feet in my car because my toes were too cold in my flip-flops due to my relentless air conditioning blasting. (Betty was riding in the front seat and she likes it pretty cool. When she gets hot she goes into full Dragon Bunny mode and starts breathing fire.) The smell of the heater being turned on after so many months of disuse was comforting and smelled so wonderful and autumnal…for about thirty seconds. Then it got really stuffy and disgusting in the car and I immediately swapped back to A/C and just let my toes enter into early stage frostbite.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d love to make some acorn and pumpkin-shaped muffins using a banana bread or pumpkin spice recipe or something that conjures up similarly cozy feelings, then build a fire and jump in a pile of leaves and wear a scarf and a pea coat. But just because the calendar says September doesn’t mean the weather has caught on yet. It is summer outside. Sorry.

I blame you for this, Starbucks.

Pumpkin Spice

Bonus item:

People bringing their screaming children to work

I already have to deal with people of underdeveloped intelligence sending me a constant barrage of e-mails and sticking their heads into their office and forcing me to attend meetings that slowly erode my already questionable attention span. Adding someone who is not potty trained into this menagerie is really just not helping. Do not bring an infant into the office unless it is perfectly groomed and wants to be held and gurgle and wave hello and be adorable and give me baby envy. Any other type of baby in the office is just not acceptable. It is doubly unacceptable for you to play Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” on repeat on your phone because you think it will make said wailing child happy. It is not making that baby happy. It is not making me happy. YOU ARE MAKING EVERYONE UNHAPPY.

T. G. I. F.

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Please enjoy this delightful break in our regularly scheduled but sporadically updated program for an entry by Sister #3. You’re welcome.


My sister has been pestering me to contribute to her blog since she started writing it. Alas and alack, the life of a royal like me is incredibly busy so I haven’t had time to contribute. Also, she never updates and who wants to contribute to a vessel of wit and wisdom that isn’t properly maintained?

[Blog mistress’s note: Cheeky little brat.]

I suppose that’s where I come in. As I contemplated an appropriate topic for my guest entry, nothing particularly clever came to mind. I am a philosophy major, and as such I am fond of writing dry, analytical essays intended to make the reader weep because they are so logical that their brains simply cannot handle the pure, unadulterated rationality so they must create emotion where there is none. In layman’s terms, they are, in fact, “bored to tears.” I shall spare all of you that pain and toss the old advice to “write what you know.” Who really knows anything about philosophy anyway? It’s a bunch of things that people made up in the first place, and then we are required to know the things that other people made up, so that apparently makes it knowledge. I will make up my own thoughts one day and they will be magnificent and students of future generations will curse my name as they are assigned epically long papers on my made-up thoughts and have to connect it to some inane topic.


I am not writing what I know. I will instead write what I do.

And what is it that I do, darling imaginary audience? Well, I live as a relatively functional human being. I bathe, I eat, I work out, I have social interactions. I also mess these things up and more on a regular basis. But those things are the primary functions I perform, so I will address those. Two of my dearest roommates used to listen to my stories endlessly, and we adopted a phrase to summarize as well as title all of these stories: “My life is a joke.” These stories sometimes really did seem to model themselves after actual jokes, but most of the time they more closely resembled really bad sitcom writing. Without further ado, welcome to an introductory episode of the terrible sitcom that is my life.


The beginning of college held a lot of firsts for me, with one of the most disorienting being my first communal shower.

My college experience started with Cadet Basic Training, and all I was allowed to wear at the time were Army-issue glasses.

They are horrendous. I also had a strap that held them in place. Now, they did their job for the most part (except when they fogged up while I was trying to shoot), but they had no place in the shower. When I went to shower for the first time, my near-sighted self was thrown into a blurry, steamy box of naked female bodies with no way to orient myself to what was happening. This is not as erotic as it sounds. These females are checking each other for ticks, prickly heat, and the like. They are trying to move as quickly as possible so that everyone can conduct proper hygiene, but if you’re me, you’re stuck at the entrance to the shower trying to figure out where to go. I had a number of courses of action run through my head:

  1. Go back and get my glasses. I mean, I can only see like a foot in front of me. How am I going to get clean?
  2. Announce my presence to the girls in the shower: “Hello. I cannot see without my glasses. Will someone please help me find an available shower head? Also please do not stare because I cannot stare back and trying to start a staring contest with me without my glasses would be massively unfair.” Damn all of them and their 20/20 vision.
  3. Just go in and stand there and see what happens.

I went with number three and that worked out for me because I was naturally called over to the nearest open showerhead and bathing without vision wasn’t really all that difficult. Muscle memory. This option totally worked out because I still have friends. I wouldn’t be friends with the “girl who wore her glasses in the shower” or the “girl who announced her nearsightedness and demanded a Seeing Eye Friend in the shower” so I’m glad I didn’t go with either of the first two.

I’ve since mastered the whole communal shower business (aided by the fact that I got my contacts back at the end of Basic) and the only issue I’ve run into since is finding the showerhead with hot water. People say the building I live in now is haunted, so I’m pretty sure Moaning Myrtle hangs out in one of the girls’ bathrooms and pipes hot water only through like two showerheads.

This creates another one of those Awkward Situations for me when I shower in the morning. I’m usually the only one in there, or I only pass one person on their way in or out, but I always worry someone will walk in on my Hot Water Acquisition Ritual one day and I’ll have to explain, butt naked, what I’m trying to accomplish. You see, for some reason, turning on every single showerhead helps the water heat up in some of them faster.

So that’s what I do. I turn on no fewer than six showerheads and stand in the middle in my birthday suit and wait for my delightful scalding water to be ready. Sometimes I go flush a toilet for good measure, even though I understand literally nothing about plumbing. That always heated up our water in the shower at home, so maybe it’ll work here. Mostly I think it just kills time, but it also increases the risk of the Hot Water Acquisition Ritual being discovered, so I have to rush speedy quick back over to my shower. It seems to be working and I haven’t had to take a cold shower yet, so knock on shower tile that it keeps going well.

Non-Shower Glasses

Non-Shower Glasses



I have a small phobia of eating in social settings. I also go to a school where we eat family-style for two meals out of the day. This works really well for me when I eat at the same table every day during the school year, but in the summer your table mates will vary a bit more. I don’t feel comfortable telling a table full of variant table mates what I would to an actual table family. Normally I very aggressively tell people to “mind their own plate” because my stepmom taught me that. Baby Sister (who is actually 18) is very bossy and Stepmonster got tired of her telling everyone what to eat. I adopted the phrase and use it at school. However it is summertime and the variant table mates might silently judge.

I know I do, so I assume every time they glance my way they’re doing it too, so I’m thinking, “Okay, I know I ate 12 baby carrots and the bun for the roast beef but I didn’t eat any roast beef but I really like the bread of this bun and I didn’t want the weird roast beef and also I have a thing about roast beef every since my dad purchased way too many Arby’s Roast Beef sandwiches during my adolescence!” This thought is accompanied by what is probably a nasty look on my part, and the alleged judge-y person is all, “Could you pass the ranch?” And then I think, “Ew, you totes should not put ranch on that.” But I pass it anyway and continue to judge silently. Just call me Judge Foodie.

Judge Foodie Enjoying Carbohydrates

Judge Foodie Enjoying Carbohydrates



This is another one where all the silent judgment happens. The difference here is that I’m usually staring at someone else because I’m curious about what they’re doing and wanted to know how it’s working for them.

Recent internal questions that I’ve had include: “How long have you been doing free-standing handstand pushups? Were you trained to do them as a child? Did you run away and join the circus before coming here?” and in the weight room: “Does grunting while you do bicep curls make you feel like a man? Should I try?” and back in the cardio room where the horrible climbing apparatus known as Jacob’s Ladder hides in the corner and some people seem to enjoy using: “Are you a masochist?”

Not that I can really talk. I too enjoy engaging in semi-masochistic behavior at the gym from time to time, but I also am looking forward to the day when I can power walk for fitness and it actually counts for something.

Normally I’m pretty smooth at the gym, drenched in sweat except for the outline of my sports bra (I can’t seem to break the barrier and sweat all the way through both layers), and only limping a little bit as I make my way to my next trick. The other day, though, I was cooling down on one of the stationary bikes and finished up and went to retrieve my water bottle. There was only one other person in the room at the time, also on the bike, and they were totally bored and watching the only other live activity in the room, AKA me. You know what I did? I went to put my things in my drawstring backpack all smooth-like because that’s my Gym MO, as previously mentioned, and I knocked down my water bottle off of the ledge and made a big mess. If no one else had been around I probably would have been like “eh, it’ll dry soon enough,” but I suddenly felt as if Lone Biker was judging me and I threw my sweat towel on top on it. Lemme tell you, the ol’ sweat towel ain’t no Sham-Wow. It didn’t do crap to absorb that water so I just ended up spreading it around. I gave up after a bit and stuffed the towel in my bag and left in shame.

This incident has led me to believe that I need a more reliable water bottle.

The author with the unreliable water bottle

The author with the unreliable water bottle



This one is tough because it happens quite a bit. I’m generally quite good at these but I also struggle with quick and witty responses. Texting is a much better medium for the rate at which my brain processes things. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve answered, “Hey, what’s up?” with “How are you?” after a pause in which my brain should have realized I was asked first.

Walking and being greeted is especially difficult, as is being called out in a large area. I probably reply with the appropriate response at the appropriate time about 10% of the time. Because of this sad truth based on highly educated statistical analysis, I have developed a catch-all response. It’s the “one size fits all” of social responses and it is The Open-to-Interpretation Large Smile, which for our purposes we will call “OTILS” for now. You know the smile I’m referring to—you’ve gotten it from people who have no idea what you’re saying, who have no idea who you are, or have no desire to speak to you. You’ve also given it. I’ve perfected it. Witness:

“Hey what’s up?”


“Saw you out at the restaurant/bar/library/movies/gym the other day!”


“Oh haaaay gurl! I see you!”


“I was just thinking about how *blah blah blah*”


“You have to be at (insert place) at (insert time).”




Are you seeing the genius?

It requires no commitment, garners no obligations, and creates an environment with very minimal risk for another Awkward Situation. It is genius, and I am sharing it with you because I am a nice person.

You’re welcome.

I hope this summary of what I do on a daily basis enriches your life. I hope you are able to learn from my actions as a functioning member of society and use those to help guide your own actions in life.

May you always be able to avoid the dreaded Awkward Situations and reach the ever-fulfilling punchline of My Life is a Joke.


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In Which I Am Forced to Join Border Patrol

If you know me in real life, or are friends with me on Facebook, or follow me on Instagram, or have been within a fifteen-foot radius of me within the last two months, you are already aware that there is someone new in my life.

Her name is Betty White, Lady of Cadbury. She is a Miniature Holland Lop, my pride and joy, and absolute confirmation that I am nowhere near ready to procreate.



I’ll give you a moment to recover from her absurd level of cuteness, then I’ll elaborate.

(Wait, one more picture.

Now we can elaborate.)

First, I will tell you why making Betty a part of the family has meant I am basically a member of Border Patrol now.

– She can’t speak English.

Or, if she can, she’s doing a really good job of pretending she can’t understand what I’m saying. Sometimes I think she really knows.

“Betty, I love you. ” She responds by licking my face.

“Betty, you are the best bunny in all the land.” She responds by licking my hand.

“Betty, you have the cutest floppy ears in the history of floppy ears.” She hops away to demonstrate how floppy her ears can be when she hops.

It works in negative ways too, like when I catch her chewing on wires: “Beeee-eeetttyyy…” She scurries away, like, What? I wasn’t doing anything. Wires? What wires? I didn’t chew any wires.

Or when I can hear her digging in the corner on the carpet and I try to sneak up on her to tell her to stop. As soon as she hears me coming she freezes and curls up into a ball and twitches her nose really fast and pins her ears against her body and stares up at me like she’s trying to hypnotize me. You heard nothing. I did not attempt to dig a hole to China through the carpet. I did nothing. You are getting very sleepy. Stop monitoring my behavior.

But most of the time I’m like, “Betty, are you hungry? Are you hungry baby girl?” And I make a big show of feeding her and watering her and she can see it and smell it and knows it’s there. And she just looks at me like, “Um, no, I’m not hungry. Stop cramping my bunny style.” Then ten minutes later she’s all up in my business like she’s starving to death or something so I have to show her where her food and water is and she chows down. I don’t want to say she’s stupid because she’s my bunny and I love her; I just think we’re not speaking the same language. Hence my claim that she is a non-English speaker.

Unfortunately for us both I don’t know enough languages to figure out what language she does speak, so as a native East Texan I have to fall back on all of my East Texas stereotypes, hence the next reason I think she is an illegal immigrant.

– She does not appear to have a problem with water.

She lets me give her a bath every week without complaint. I towel her off and she gets all slick and grumpy-looking, then she gets all fluffy and licks herself and grooms ferociously for about an hour, then hops about merrily for the rest of the night. It is pretty delightful.

This is actually a pretty racist and inappropriate point to make to I am just going to leave you with this picture of Betty not enjoying Cinco de Mayo and move on to my next point about why she’s an illegal immigrant.

– She kind of looks like a terrorist.

This is probably unfair. But you know what, it is also unfair for any creature to be as adorable as she is, so tough toenails. Suck it up, buttercup. Betty magically develops gigantic-looking biceps when she wears a camo harness intended for ferrets (yeah, it’s true; ferret people are actually crazier than bunny people like me. You can visit any pet store to verify this statement).

Also she is conveniently ACU pocket-sized.

Two words, my friends. BUNNY. GRENADE.

You never saw that coming, did you? OF COURSE YOU DIDN’T. Because she will kill you with her cuteness and you will LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT. She will lick your hand and nuzzle your cheek and lay her fluffy body across your lap and you will melt into a puddle of helpless love for her tiny, fluffy, adorable, perfect, gray, bunny body.

It is exactly like this:

And the final reason I am convinced that my beloved baby bunny is an illegal immigrant:

– She cannot produce absolutely any paperwork of any kind. None.

I’ve coaxed; I’ve wheedled; I’ve played bad cop. Still she has failed to produce any documentation proving that she is an authentic, blue-blooded, all-American baby bunny. I have begun to look into having her naturalized but I’m concerned that alerting the authorities to her presence could mean deportation.

I know. I’m a terrible border patrol agent. I’m too soft. But you’d melt into a puddle of love too if you got to feed her lettuce and watch her crunch it around her cute little bunny mouth. Nobody in the history of time has ever looked cute eating a salad until Betty the bunny. Weep, ugly vegans; the bunny has put you to shame.

She has made me aware of my limitations though; namely, that even though as soon as I see a baby my arms open up and my hip juts out ready to receive that squishy lump of kid, I am nowhere ready to have one of my own. Manfriend and I have talked about it and agreed we definitely want a few, but it is at least several years down the line (I can hear my mother wailing now, “Several? Several?” She wanted grandbabies like, yesterday. Betty is referred to as her grandbunny).

But here is why:

When I first brought her home, she didn’t eat for a couple of days. At least not in my presence.

“Kelley,” my mother tried to reason with me, “if she’s still pooping then there’s still something in her system and she’s okay. Just give her a little time to adjust and she’ll be okay.”

“Okay,” I said, and hung up, and immediately went back to lying on the floor next to her, willing her to eat. I left work early two days in a row and followed her around the house on my hands and knees while she hopped aimlessly, trying to get her to nibble on her bunny food, but she showed no interest in it. I thought her hopping was aimless because she was slowly starving to death, but now I realize it was probably just because she was a pound-and-a-half baby rabbit who didn’t know where anything was and was just trying to explore her environment but this annoying human was crawling around after her holding food up in her face every thirty seconds saying, “Please eat this, Betty, I love you.”

Clearly she’s still here so clearly she began to eat and drink on a regular basis so my fears were unfounded. But can you imagine how I’d be with a baby if I was such a psychotic ball of nerves about a rabbit? OH MY GOD THE BABY DIDN’T FINISH NURSING. HE/SHE WILL CLEARLY BE UNDERNOURISHED AND THEN BE BULLIED IN PRESCHOOL AND NOT GET INTO THE COLLEGE OF HIS/HER CHOICE AND LIVE A LONELY LIFE OF DEBT AND ALCOHOLISM, PLAGUED BY ANEMIA AND A TWITCHY LEFT EYE BECAUSE I WAS A BAD GIVER OF NOURISHMENT.

Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t all bad. The pendulum swung dangerously far in the other direction as well. I used to (and still do) lie on the floor for hours and just watch her hop around. For hours. I let other, important, actually-need-to-get-done things go undone because I am lying on the floor watching my baby bunny hop and toss her bunny head and twitch her bunny whiskers and lick my hand and be adorable.

It is delightful.

This blog is a perfect example. There were many evenings I had time to write but I didn’t because it was a lot more fun to sit on the couch while Betty hopped from side to side, using my belly as a springboard, than it was to upload pictures or stare at the computer screen some more after staring at a computer screen all day at work.

My younger sister says she thinks I have a problem. Actually, all of my sisters have, at one point or another, voiced their concern for my mental health based on my affection for Betty. But honestly… I JUST CAN’T HELP IT. She is freaking adorable. Currently she is hopping around my feet, her little bell jingling merrily, her ears flopping, her nose twitching. And she is perfect. And I am not sorry.

You can follow her on Instagram @ladybettybunny.

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Why I Love Semicolons

I love a good ode to grammar.

apprentice, never master

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Semicolons:

1. Because I know how to use them, shy, beautiful things that they are.

2. Because there are a large number of people who don’t know how to use them, and they deserve a little love after that much comical and tragical abuse.

3. Because someone, once upon a time, in a land far away (which was probably inhabited by dragons or fairies or squid bears or some other fantastic beings), looked at a sentence he had just written and came to a crossroads in his life. He stared at his written page and was so concerned with whether a period or a comma – a hard stop or an anticipatory pause – belonged between his thoughts, that he threw his hands in the air and used both.

4. Because someone else (presumably a learned and influential individual) saw it, and thought, “Hey…

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And the Award Goes To…

When I was in first grade, I read 100 books.

It was some school thing and we had all year to do it. I finished early, thereby validating my misguided perception (consistently encouraged by my parents) that I was smarter and better than the rest of the unwashed miscreants with whom I was forced to receive my education.

Just kidding. Kind of. But I was pretty proud of it.

Photographic evidence of my tragically unattractive childhood.

I still have that t-shirt somewhere, but the butterflies are peeling themselves away from the fabric, trying to flutter to freedom, and going through puberty has effectively prevented me from ever being able to wear it again and subsequently funding the bra industry for the past twelve years. (You’re welcome, Victoria’s Secret.)

I am considering making a new one (size-appropriate and sans butterflies), however, because guess what?


Yeah, you read it right. In 2013, I read 100 books. I’m not talking about The Atlantic Monthly, whose articles I read in about eight sittings to better myself, or all those Cosmo articles I slorped down while I was couch-ridden and flying high on Percocet after I had my wisdom teeth removed. News articles, magazines, blogs, etc. didn’t count for the purpose of this nerdacious challenge I gave myself last January. (Audiobooks were, however, included.  You can’t put 22,000 miles on your car and still have time to read 100 books unless you have a chauffeur. Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

So in honor of Oscar weekend, I am doing my own fake awards show. I am calling it the Margos, because Oscar is a funny name and so is Margo and it’s fun to say. I’m not as funny as Ellen DeGeneres, and I can’t order pizza and feed it to Jennifer Lawrence, but we’re gonna give it a whirl anyway. There will be a bonus picture after each category.

Here we go!

Margo award

There are seven categories: “Best Re-Read,” “Worst Book Ever,” “Most Hipster,” “Least Boring Nonfiction,” “Best Listen,” “Most Thrilling,” and “I Read the Shit Out of that Book.”

The nominees for Best Re-Read are:

  • Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle

Yes, I re-read some of my childhood favorites. Guess what? They were just as amazing this year as they were in 1999 or 2005 or whatever year I first read these amazing books. I originally read them just because I was panicking about my numbers for the 100-book challenge, and I did read most of them in either a single sitting or two sittings. Regardless of their length, however, they affected me deeply even after having read them multiple times.

This year the Margo goes to Harper Lee, because I wish I could write just one perfect novel the way she did.

Bonus picture is me perusing some picture book with bunnies in it while Sister #1 makes some kind of horrible face at the camera. Yes we are matching. Yes that was normal. No I am not (quite) that Buddha-faced anymore.


Worst Book Ever

Here are the nominees:

  • Devices and Desires, K.J. Parker
  • The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick
  • Unveiled, Deborah Kanafani

I really thought Unveiled was going to be good. It’s about a Lebanese college student in America in the early 80’s who marries a high-ranking Palestinian diplomat working in the United Nations. He sweeps her off her feet and brings her into the company of dignitaries, world leaders, and international glamour. He also slowly isolates her from her old life, determined to keep her under his thumb. After her divorce, Deborah traveled to the Middle East to document the stories of other wives of Arab leaders, women like her who struggled and survived.

It could have been good. But…seriously…HIRE A BETTER GHOSTWRITER. Or maybe she didn’t use one. In which case, PLEASE, hire a ghostwriter. You need one.

The Silver Linings Playbook wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read; it just has the distinction of being one of the worst that I read last year. Awkward. Overrated. Movie was okay.

Finally, this is a synopsis for the other most egregious offender on my reading list in 2013, Devices and Desires: “When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance — one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others…

In a compelling tale of intrigue and injustice, K. J. Parker’s embittered hero takes up arms against his enemies, using the only weapons he has left to him: his ingenuity and his passion — his devices and desires.”

Okay. There’s a lock and a key on the cover. It’s called Devices and Desires. Somebody is going to take off their clothes at some point, right? Of course they are. There’s a lock and key! It’s about passion! The cover art is all Dan Brown “blade and chalice”! …Wrong. So wrong. It. Was. So. Boring. A friend lent it to me, and he will not be named here, but wow. Wow was this book boring. If you were really into simple machines as a kid or you want some endless descriptions of engineering and locks and other crap like that, this book might be right up your alley. The fact that it wasn’t sexy would have been okay if it wasn’t so boring. But alas, it was. And so the Margo goes to:

Don’t let the sexy lock and key fool you. Nobody will be getting down and dirty in the dungeon.

Bonus picture is me forcing my Grandma to read to me as I am dressed like the American Girl Samantha. (Molly is supervising over there on the left in her red-striped pajamas.)


Next up,

“Most Hipster Book”

This is the category dedicated to a book that I read before it was cool. There are no nominees. The Margo goes to The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.

I read an excerpt from a free e-book on my Kindle and was so obsessed that I actually bought the digital version so I could read it as fast as possible. Then because it was sublime I had to buy it in hard copy. Naturally. Get your tissues and get ready to become obsessed with John Green’s colloquial yet brilliant prose. That’s what happened to me at least. (This movie had BETTER BE GOOD.)

Bonus picture is me forcing Aunt Beth to read to me. I don’t know what that book is. I do know that the outfit I’m wearing exists in quadruple…because all four of us had a matching jumper. Dear sweet mother of the 90’s.


Now the award for Least Boring Nonfiction.

I don’t really like nonfiction. It’s not my thing. I used to dazzle people with my intimate knowledge of Roman dress, cuisine, and the chronology of the emperors in the first century A.D. Not because I’m some kind of genius/nerd who just remembers these kinds of details, but because I am obsessed with Roman historical fiction and have read way more than is probably healthy. So the years that Caligula was emperor aren’t just dusty dates; they’re a scandalous series of juicy gossip and opulent parties. It’s like a trashy magazine circa 40 A.D.

I learn through stories, so I don’t like nonfiction books because they don’t typically spin a clear enough narrative that my brain can process everything in the book in an orderly fashion. But last year I read a few keepers:

  • Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, Jon Krakauer
  • The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Killers Can Teach Us About Success, Kevin Dutton
  • The Starfish and the Spider, Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
  • The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi

It seems appropriate to cut to the chase in a category dedicated to books that aren’t extended narratives. The Margo goes to:

The book discusses the line between being a successful, driven, hard-charging executive or business person, and being a serial killer. “Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry.” It was interesting, and creepy. I was a fan.

Plus check out how creepy the author looks here:

Either he was going for this whole hipster-murderer look, or Professor Dutton needs to hire a new publicist.

Bonus picture is Sister #1 and me getting prepped to shove some fairy tales down Sister #3’s throat as soon as she is ready to be educated. She is probably hiding.


Onto Best Listen!

For a kid who loved to be read to, I really used to hate audio books. Over the past year, however, I developed a tenuous kind of affection for them, because I spent so many hours in the car and they kept me from falling behind on my reading each month.

The nominees are:

  • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
  • If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t), Betty White
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
  • Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt

I actually disliked The End of the Affair, but it was narrated by Colin Firth, so it was actually pleasant listening to Mr. Darcy just talk at me for eight hours or so. Angela’s Ashes was SO DEPRESSING, but there was something really unique about listening to an author narrate his own work in a rich, Irish accent. Betty White is a delightful human being, and even though her book wasn’t really anything you’d tell your grandkids about, I listened to it while I was stuck on a jetway in Detroit for three hours and I’m pretty sure it saved the life of the screaming baby in the seat in front of me and the child behind me kicking my seat hard enough that I should have sued for whiplash.  Water for Elephants was narrated by an old man and a young man, depending on where you were in the story. The effect was magical; by the end I wanted to run away and join the circus.

But hands down, no contest, the winner is Jeremy Irons narrating Lolita:

There could not be a more fitting narrator. Eloquent, intelligent, smooth, slimy, psychopathic: Jeremy Irons (you know, the voice of Scar from The Lion King?) encompassed an incredible range within the text. I was so creeped out the whole book, but I couldn’t stop listening. I actually listened to it on the bike at the gym a few times, and I kept looking around guiltily at everyone else blasting J.T. through their headphones like normal people while I was listening to the extended narrative of a pedophile.

It seems creepy to follow this up with a picture of me as a kid, but I’m doing it anyway. Not sorry.

Bonus picture is me sitting on the floor like some kind of peasant child whose family owns no furniture. I think I’m wearing lime green legging-shorts. Yikes.


The next category is Most Thrilling! otherwise known as, Book that Made Me Gasp Every Other Page

The nominees are:

  • World War Z, Max Brooks
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • 11/22/63, Stephen King
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

Margaret Atwood is really quite excellent, and I love a good dystopian novel. Stephen King’s book about the assassination of JFK was also fascinating – detailed, intricate, and a page-turner in the exactly literal sense of the word. In Cold Blood was my first experience with Capote, and I’m definitely going back for more.

But as much as I liked all three (and would read them again), they are not going home with the Margo tonight.

You have to understand something about me: I don’t get the zombie thing. Not only do I not get it, but I have this vague distaste for it, sort of like that green slime Nickelodeon used to dump all over people a la Carrie pig blood and it was supposed to be funny but mostly it was just gross. I feel the same way about the whole vampire trend. There are all these shows and books that are supposed to be so sexy and thrilling but mostly they’re just gross and cheesy and awkward. Zombie things are kind of like for me, except instead of the sexy factor they’re just grisly, and I don’t dig it.

Having said that, I loved World War Z (sorry Brad Pitt, but your movie adaptation was lame). Max Brooks tells the stories of survivors of The Great Panic, or The Zombie War (hence the Z). There are stories from all kinds of people all over the world who experienced the destruction the zombies wrought. He is unassuming, and truly takes on the voice of each person whose tale he tells, whether it’s a Japanese teenager who doesn’t realize what’s happened till his Internet is cut off, the crew of a nuclear submarine, a little girl fleeing to Canada with her family, a famous Hollywood director creating propaganda films, or a heroic member of one of the U.S.’s K-9 teams who fought the zombies.

Brooks examines geopolitics, economics, family dynamics, and basic human instincts (and the ability to overcome the lesser ones). It. Is. Fascinating.

The other top contender is Gone Girl. I bought this one to listen to while I was running the roads all summer, and I was so hooked that I actually carried it around with me in my apartment and couldn’t stop listening to it until I was finished. It is the morning of Amy and Nick’s fifth wedding anniversary and Amy is missing. Flynn tells Nick’s story in real time and Amy’s perspective is offered from her long, detailed journal entries. AT LEAST FOR THE FIRST HALF AND THEN YOUR MIND GETS BLOWN. The whole time I couldn’t decide who to believe. It was a fascinating account of the courtship and marriage of a sociopath and a narcissist, who had just enough forgivable traits that you could relate to them…which was terrifying in itself.

So the Margo goes to:

Bonus picture is me nerding out in this plastic chair for which I am precariously large while Sister #1 and Sister #3do normal child things, like play with our German Shepherd. I’m like, nah girl, you good, I got this book.


The final category of the night is dedicated to books I have been meaning to read for years and finally got around to reading in 2013. …And they were just as cumbersome and dreadful as I had anticipated.

The nominees for I Read the Shit Out of That Book are:

  • A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  • The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie

I was actually really nerdishly excited about finally reading all these books. Turning them over in my hands I felt so educated and earnest, so ready to find out why they were so controversial or beloved or considered timeless. Mostly what I have taken away from this experience is that you have to kill a lot of characters and write annoyingly dense prose if you want people to keep banging their heads against a wall over your novel in years to come. I’m not sure if that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

My mother and Sister #4 are going to be throwing popcorn at the screen when they read this, because they have already informed me that it is a mortal sin that I didn’t like Jane Eyre. Let’s be clear about that, though: I liked Jane as a character; I did not like the novel. (STOP WRITING PHYSIOGNOMY EVERY OTHER PAGE, CHARLOTTE; NOBODY LIKES THAT WORD.) And, at the risk of alienating one of my brilliant, beautiful friends who adores it, the Margo goes to:

She is clearly smarter than I am for appreciating Tolstoy for 800millionbajillion pages; I simply couldn’t cope. When it was over I was so relieved I almost cried, because now I can finally, finally say I’ve read Anna Karenina, and pleaseohplease nobody will ever make me read it again.

Bonus picture for the final category of the evening is me in 2012 moving and cataloging all my books (I have over 600; for the sake of my back, I have really got to stop moving.)

I hope you enjoyed the first annual Margo awards, accompanied by a little trip down my literary memory lane. Send me your recommendations to add to my reading list! I will be working on it for at least the next fifty or eighty years, or however long it is before my eyesight finally goes. If you’d like the list of the full 100 books, let me know that as well! I’d be happy to send it along.

Thank you again for joining us tonight at the Margo Awards. Make good choices. Don’t party too hard tonight, kids! You know how those after-parties can be for book awards.


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In Which I Become Affianced

The time has come, dear readers — the time at which my Pinterest wedding boards become legitimate, and I realize I can’t afford most of the absurd things I think princesses should have at their weddings (fireworks, elephant rides, and a puppy as a favor a la Bridesmaids being the most disappointing).

Yep, I am interrupting this regularly scheduled program to announce that I have become affianced to Manfriend!

A lot of little girls spend their whole lives fantasizing about their weddings. I’m not really into floral arrangements or cakes that look better than they taste, though, so my wedding plan was basically this: I manage to look ethereal and virginal and old-Hollywood-sexy all at once. He’s tall (sorry short guys of the world, but you were just not a part of my wedding fantasy) and shmexy. My whole family is there. There is a ton of food and some of it is grilled cheese and all of it is delicious. Then there is dancing and merriment and probably ice sculptures and enchanted fountains. A fairy grants us three wishes for our marriage. Then we fly away on a magic carpet to start our happily ever after.

Really solid plan, right?

Regardless of whether or not the fairy godmother I plan on inviting can clear her schedule to make it to the wedding, I think I’m still off to a pretty good start. Also he asked me to marry him and I said yes, so now I can actually, legitimately plan a wedding.

I had some good reasons for saying yes too. Here is a list of things I like about Manfriend:

1) He’s tall.

Apart from this being an evolution-based indication of good health and the ability to defend our family, it is also terribly convenient because I can wear whatever height heels I want when we go fancy places without looking silly. It also means he can reach ALL THE THINGS.

“Manfriend? Could you please hang this plant for me on the porch? I can’t reach that chain thingy.” Of course he can.

“Manfriend, the plant is dead because I never remember to water it. Could you take it down and hang up this fake one instead?” Not an issue.

“Manfriend, be a dear and fetch the rum from the back corner of the top of the fridge, where I slid it and now cannot access it.” Then he pours shots.

“Manfriend? I can’t reach that book on the top shelf.” Book + boy = swoon.

“Manfriend, I can’t see the parade because America is obese and all these fat people are blocking the view of those of us with only borderline BMIs.” Then I get hefted up so I can see the parade.

“Manfriend, could you–” Then he’s like, STOP CALLING ME MANFRIEND, because it’s only endearing for so long and then he wishes to be called by his real name or whatever, but regardless. With Manfriend in my life I can reach/see/drink/forget to water all the things.

2) He tolerates/sometimes enjoys the company of my family.

I know everybody’s family is crazy and all that jazz, but Manfriend grew up with one brother and no sisters and his parents are really nice and have been married forever. I have three sisters as crazy as I am, a father who likes to run background checks on everyone, a stepmother that we called our Wicked Evil Stepmonster (her idea for a title), a mother I’m pretty sure has a compulsive holiday-decorating disorder, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Well, not the last thing, but Manfriend comes from a family that just has cats and dogs for pets and in my family we’ve had two kinds of birds, rabbits, five kinds of dogs, fish, mice, a desert tortoise, and a five-foot iguana. Zoo status, when you include the mood swings of four girls.)

Manfriend bears all these things with grace and humor, and looks really good doing it.

3) He’s secretly smart.

Because I can sometimes be an elitist, pretentious bitch, I used to think Manfriend wasn’t smart enough to keep up with me. He played video games and sports and never seemed to be reading for fun, and he occasionally demonstrated incorrect usage of your/you’re in our early text conversations. Clearly not somebody I could procreate with. Scoff. Hair toss. DIS-MISSED.

Then while I was busy being too smart for him, he charmed my family, convinced me to go to Disney World with him during my last spring break at West Point, and cemented our relationship when he stood up for me against an ex who made all kinds of wild, unflattering accusations about my family and me. He also made perfect grades on Physics exams at West Point, proving once and for all that he’s not a dumb jock, as much as he likes to claim he is. I, on the other hand, studied for hours and still only skidded by in Physics I and II with a B- both semesters. I neither remember nor understand anything about that class, except that if you copy down all the equations you might get some partial credit.

Now, to tease me for being a pretentious bitch in the early days of our relationship, Manfriend pretends to have a diminished vocabulary purely for the sake of driving me crazy.

For instance:

HIM: What are you doing?

ME: I’m being coy.

HIM: Oh, like the fish.

ME: No! Not like the fish!

HIM: Kelley, stop being koi.


HIM: I don’t understand.

ME: You’re just being intentionally obtuse.

HIM: You know I don’t like it when you call me fat.

…infuriating. Adorable…but mostly infuriating.

4) He’s a bazillionaire.

Just kidding. If he was we’d definitely have a roller coaster photo booth at our wedding. Also baby otters.

But he is good with money, and math, and carpentry, and electricity, and technology, and sports, and grilling, and being coordinated, and all kinds of other things at which I am hopeless. He also has a much higher internal body temperature than I do, which I really appreciate in the winter but requires the use of a fan in summertime. Basically he fills in the gaps in my life, which I think is a pretty important characteristic in the person you’re going to marry.

5) He’s dreamy.

But seriously.

Here’s how he proposed:

We’d been planning to get engaged this past Christmas for almost a year. We shopped for rings over Valentine’s Day weekend last year, and decided what we liked/didn’t like, price, etc. Then we didn’t talk about it again for months. Over the summer he told me to go get my ring finger sized, but other than that he gave no hints about what he was going to buy or when. By November I was convinced he still hadn’t picked one out, and I was worried he was going to spend too much money or wait too long and then we’d have to wait longer to get engaged and waaaaaaah.

Then, two days after Thanksgiving, my mom and youngest sister were visiting his house. His parents, his brother, and his brother’s fiance were also there. Manfriend’s brother’s fiance (the girlfriend-in-law, my stepmom calls her) announced that evening that they had done a bunch of work outside, and so she wanted everyone to get dressed up to take nice family pictures on the bridge over the pond in the backyard the next day. We all said, okay, whatever, and Manfriend seemed clueless/appropriately uninterested so I suspected nothing.

The following afternoon, Manfriend and I were taking our turn for pictures on the bridge. Suddenly, he stopped and grinned at me, and said, “Hang on. I have to go get something,” and leaves me standing baffled on the bridge by myself. He jogged to a nearby tree and grabbed something from behind it, then came back to stand with me on the bridge.

It was a book. Oh! A book! I love books! I tried to take it from him, starting to feel a little indignant that he would bring me a present and then not just hand it over. Holding the book away from me, he put his other hand on my back and stood close. (He was kind of rubbing my back like you might do with a skittish bunny or something, so I’m pretty sure he was trying to lull me into a false sense of security before he could strike.) Then he began his little speech. I started looking around and realized that every female member of our family watching was now crying. Then I realized that he was proposing. And our families were there. And it was being filmed for my big sister in Afghanistan. Then he was down on one knee, opening the book to reveal the ring inside:

It was basically the most magical thing ever.

So of course I cried.

And I said yes.


And then my dad and stepmom and Sister #3 showed up and the whole big happy group of us had a belated Thanksgiving dinner together. There was even celebratory pie, courtesy of my future sister-in-law.


This was the book Manfriend had picked out to use for the proposal:

And this is the bling ring he gave me:

Sometimes I make a disco ball on the wall when I’m bored during staff meetings, because examining the sparkliness (yes, that is important in choosing a diamond: cut, color, clarity, carat, and sparkliness) of my ring is a lot more interesting than who’s on profile and whatever we’re doing for training next week.

Now all I have to do is win the lottery or get a fat book advance so I can have elephant rides and a fireworks show to rival Disney World, and I’ll be set! After that I plan to spend a few hours coming up with witty retorts to the inevitable and unoriginal string of “lovely” jokes that I will endure for the rest of my life. That’s right, Manfriend’s last name is Lovely, and so after he graduates/commissions/we get married, we shall be the Lieutenants Lovely.

I invite you to stay tuned this year as I slowly morph into Bridezilla. I am now accepting donations to fund my extravagant fairy-tale wedding, complete with water slide.



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