Sunday, January 18, 2015

2014 Year in (Book) Review

If you read my post from last year, in which I had only read four whole books over the course of the year, you can rejoice with me in my slight improvement. However, summarizing so many more books took a long time for me and so February happened, and the "end of the year" theme isn't so relevant.  I would like to say my uptick in reading is due to a longer commute time, and it partially is.  But the real reason I am reading more is that I have rediscovered my love for the library.  You may recall that last year, I would go to the library unprepared, be overwhelmed at all the options, and walk out with nothing.  This year, I've started making a list of books to read. I add to the list when I get a recommendation, read an interesting review, or hear a good quote. This way, I go with a book in mind and often put it on hold ahead of time.

As I've grown more familiar with the shelves, I've started to get one book on my list and one that I picked up while browsing.  It really has re-sparked the love for reading I had as a kid.  Seriously, one year the only thing I got in trouble for in school was for reading during class time. I also had no friends that year, so there's that.

Anyways, I usually walk during lunch breaks to library in DC, since it's easier to fit in.  Going to the library gives me the same feeling that riding a bike around the city does: like an optimistic Mary Poppins throwing wildflower seeds at every patch of dirt, leaving a trail of beauty behind me. In my head, it is as if I'm waving to friends instead of avoiding puddles of saliva on the sidewalk, courtesy of the mentally unstable homeless that also frequent the library. I imagine myself toting a baguette and bouquet of flowers rather than a bag of dirty gym clothes, and heading to a picnic on a spring day rather than the alternating sweating or freezing that I experience in winter. This is how the library makes me feel.  Maybe that description of myself, will help you understand why I choose books that likely sound as much fun as taxes. (Oh my gosh - I realized after writing that that taxes are fun to me - what is wrong with me?)

Without further ado, the books of 2014:

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell.

Honestly, I love Malcolm Gladwell's books, and this copy is even signed! I went to an event at Sixth and I where he was the main star. I can't remember how they advertised it - "A night with Malcolm Gladwell" or something that evoked images of a nice fireside chat. That is kind of what it was, assuming your fireplace is in a synagogue with your closest thousand friends who took all the good seats (and we still got there a half hour early), and someone from Slate is asking the questions instead of you. I think the main lesson here is that if you want me to arrive early anywhere, tell me that Malcolm Gladwell will be there.

As per usual with Gladwell's books, I found this book fascinating. One of the big ideas of the book is that maybe the characteristics that make someone a "underdog" can actually be a strength that lead to unexpected victory. For example, someone with a reading disability may have to make up for it by becoming really good at memorizing, resulting in academic success. Obviously, this theory can't really be generalized, otherwise my lack of physical strength and coordination would have turned me into an Olympic figure skater. (Or maybe a gymnast. Not as cold and fewer sharp objects. Also less getting whacked in the knees.)

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

I'm not sure what I thought this book was about - a violent crime that occurs on a farm?- but it was not about that at all. Though I still think a "catcher in the rye" sounds like a kidnapper. This book I loved. The rambling and angst and the absolute honesty. No wonder it's a classic. This quote is probably the perfect summary, "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though." I wish I could have been J.D. Salinger's friend. I wouldn't have arrived a half hour early for him though, but it would be because with him, I wouldn't have to. Because what's the rush when you are just going to sip some sherry and comment about the ridiculous nature of people in the world? Although, really, he probably would have much cooler friends than me, so also that's why I wouldn't get there early - because I wasn't invited.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple

I bought this book right before a 4 hour bus ride.  I had finished my other book was afraid I'd be bored.  Of course, once I got on the bus I was either asleep or too motion sick to read anyway. This was kind of "meh." A fast and humorous read set in Seattle, it made me really want to go there, but the story itself felt slightly juvenile, though it was clearly for adults. Maybe this is why I'm skeptical of most modern fiction.  The best quote was this:

"'That's right,' she told the girls. 'You are bored. And I'm going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it's boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it's on you to make life interesting, the better off you'll be.'"

The Measure of Sucess: Uncovering the Biblical Perspective on Women, Work, and the Home, by Carolyn McCulley and Nora Shank

Written by two members of my church, I found this book on "Biblical Womanhood" refreshing.  My only small complaint was that there wasn't a concrete takeaway, but the book was purposely broad, as each person's circumstance is different. Some background: I grew up in a conservative Christian church where the main focus for women's teachings was on having a "heart for the home." Even though, my parents and many others in my life always supported me in my pursuit of education, career, and graduate degree, it often felt like there was less support for people who weren't stay at home moms. So now that that can of worms is only cracked and not all the way open: I really like how this book went through the history of work, especially for women, pointing out how for most of history, the home has not been the refuge from a long day at the office it is now - no, it was the office, the center of business and economics for the family.  So when it says in Titus 2:5 that women are to be "busy at home," that doesn't mean to be constantly redecorating.  McCulley and Shank show that the idea of work can be applied to any calling, professional or not.

Sarah's Key (didn't finish), by Tatiana de Rosnay

I read the first couple chapters, then stopped. Then reread them a few weeks later. Then decided a story about kids and WWII concentration camps really sounded way too sad for me to want to finish no matter how beautifully it was written.

An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies, by Tyler Cowen

So I'm kind of wishing I had written this book. I mean, look at the name of this blog! Economist! That's me! Foodie! I don't like how pretentious it sounds, but I did complain about the temperature of red wine a couple weeks ago, so Foodie? That's me too! (And nerd! Because my heart is even now, beating faster at the thought of combining my two favorite topics!) If, like me, you like food, and like to get really analytical about your decisions, this is for you. Written by George Mason economics professor, Tyler Cowen, I loved that he is local enough for me to visit the places he recommends. I love his mindset towards food because it captures how I often feel, "...eating out while traveling isn't just about the food, it's also a quest. It's a chance to create an adventure, a memory, a connection to the local culture; and it's a chance to help define what your trip, and indeed your life, is about. Traveling can spur the realization that eating is a creative art."

The book goes through a fascinating history of food in the US, experiments in grocery shopping, and tips for how to find the best places to eat at. It gave me much more of a shove towards ethnic foods in less glitzy neighborhoods where the bang for your buck is likely to be better than most spots on the "best of" lists. I wasn't thrilled with his stance on some of the more political issues of food (ie: he claimed GMOs are ok because there isn't conclusive proof otherwise), but I enjoyed this book, if nothing else because it relieved some of the self-induced pressure I can feel to only eat at popular (and budget blowing) spots.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (didn’t finish), by Michael Pollan

One day on the train ride home my conversation with an especially chatty seatmate went something like this:

"Do you work nearby?"
"Yeah, I'm an economist - I studied math and economics in school, so I'm kind of a numbers need."
"What are you reading?" Motioning to this book in my hand.
"It's this book called The Omnivore's Dilemma."  I explained my selection, “ I just really like eating so thought it might be interesting.” 
"Wow, you like math and food. You're such an awesome girl!"

I think he must not have met very many people.  I then waved to Jason across the aisle and excused myself from further conversation so I could finish the book before it was due back at the library. I didn’t finish, but it might be a good book for you if you want the attention of someone who is way too easily impressed.  (Jason can testify that the downside of those two characteristics is that when grocery shopping, I take way too long calculating unit prices and going back and forth about organic vs. natural vs. conventional.)

Anyways, the part I did read was fascinating, though it certainly shows the ugly the food industry is when politics pervert the system.  For example, the part I read focused on the government corn subsidy. I read this a while ago, so may have details fuzzy, but the gist is: there was an overproduction of corn in the earlier part of the 1900’s. This drove the prices down, meaning farmers made less than they counted on, and so made up the difference the next year by planting even more corn, which lead to even more surplus, even lower prices, and a downward spiral. When the subsidy was first introduced, the government bought excess supplies of corn and stored them for years when production was lower, thus keeping the price of corn artificially high in years of plenty. However, food policy changed – I can’t remember when, 70’s or 80’s? – so that the government still paid farmers for the excess corn, but left the excess on the market instead of storing it. Long story short, cheap corn prices result in today’s issues: prevalence of high fructose corn syrup, use of corn for feed, and therefore hormones for cattle whose stomachs are not made to digest it, and over development of land for agricultural use. That kind of stuff is frustrating, but fascinating to me, and I’ll have to finish it sometime.

Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining, and Romancing Like the French (not finished), by Harriet Welty Rochefort

Really, I picked up the book hoping to learn the "secret" as to how France could be known for rich buttery foods yet filled with svelte, trim people.  (I was really hoping that lots of red wine would be the answer, but it was something far more practical: petite quantities.)  Like someone who uses twenty words when ten will do, it was entertaining but I didn't feel like I didn't miss much when the library due date arrived with 1/3 of the book left to go.  Perfect for the Francophile, traveler, or anyone who wants to put a finger on what makes the culture of the French so refined, the book definitely made me want to emulate parts  of French culture, and bumped Paris and the Riviera up a few notches on my travel wish - list.

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

Beautiful and haunting, the characters of this story will stick with me for a long time. If Heller made me want to befriend him, Steinbeck made me want to befriend his characters. Like going on a hike rather than a roller coaster, the ups and downs of the plot were more gradual, but the details more marvelously studied.  A story of two families captures the wonder and brokenness of life with such vivid descriptions I wished this book was mine and not the library's so I could have highlight my favorite quotes.  It's not really what I'd call a "beach read," but still worth it.

Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu, by J. Maarten Troost

This guy is hilarious.  At least to me, and by now you know to be wary of using me as a litmus test.  The auto biographical tale of the author and his wife when they move to Vanuatu. After leaving an office job in DC, he follows his wife to the edge of civilization for her job. There he learns local culture, customs, and entertainment. But it's really his dry and witty sense of humor and commentary on society that I loved, especially since I have had the exact soul-sucking experience on the DC metro that hooked me at the start. The book was a fun way to learn about another part of the world, and his stories had me alternating between wishing I could live on a rural island and being glad I don't. I suppose the indigenous drug use would get it a PG-13 rating, but the titles of his books really are worse than the content. I don't support drug use. Disclaimer box is checked.

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think, by Brian Wansink
Books on food are a theme because, as I told the train guy, I love food. I also like being informed about what I consume and found this book fascinating! It's less of a diet book, more of a study into the psychology of eating. The author certainly cited various scientific studies, many of which he was involved in conducting, but it wasn't like a textbook. Wanksink talks about factors that frequently cause us to overeat and simple, healthy ways to eat better. One big point he made, which should seem obvious, is that we eat more when the container or serving utensil we use is bigger. This may seem fairly obvious, and you might even think you know better than to make that mistake. Amusingly enough, he performed this experimental on the very scientists studying this topic, and they still ate something like 50% more ice cream when using a bigger scooper! The very people who should know better! Even if weight isn't an issue, most people gain 1 pound a year, making it relevant to most.  This book helped me think about ways help me keep my family healthy, held my interest, and wasn't overly scientific.

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (Technically, I started this in 2014 and only finished last week in 2015, but figured it was close enough.), by Elizabeth Kline

Do you ever get frustrated that your clothes pill after just a few washes? Do Anthro and J.Crew catalogs go straight in the trash because anything more than $10 at H&M makes you feel guilty? Do you have an overflowing closet but "nothing to wear"? Do lose your sunglasses every year? Ok that's just me.

Anyways, no matter your answers this book is for you! Cheesy sales pitch aside, I thought this book was really interesting. Seriously, the only downside is I felt like I should have been taking notes for work. I was shocked to learn that amidst skyrocketing prices for housing, education, everything, the real price of clothing has actually decreased in the last decade. This is largely due to the change in trade agreements allowing for a massive outsourcing of cheap, foreign labor. The result is not only cut throat prices, but a deterioration in quality, lost US jobs, poor working conditions, and a "fast fashion" consumerism that treats clothes as disposable. Of course, I'm not as quick to demonize those results as Kline is, as there is always another side to any argument, but they aren't good.  Trends that once changed every decade and now are changing monthly. It's definitely not a fashion guide, as the Kline makes it clear she had a lot to learn about style. (I wore black, brown and navy blue at the same time the other day, so I do too.) Her takeaway is not to necessarily spend more total money on clothes, but buy fewer items at a higher quality, as they'll last longer anyway.  I'm taking it as permission to buy nicer clothes because it's socially and environmentally responsible.  I'm hoping it helps with my dress addiction.

So, turns out reading more books takes a long time to write about.  If I lost you with all that, at least you have suggestions by better writers.  Hopefully you get some good ideas.  Have you read anything good lately? I'm almost ready for my next book - of course, after I do my taxes!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Christmas Letter

I have had all sorts of posts half written for a few months, but just haven't sat down to finish them all. Thanks to anyone who has read along this year. Just in case there was anyone who I forgot to mail our Christmas letter to, I thought it might be fun to share it here along with the photo I sent (taken by Liz Duren).  Some more details made more generic because I'm paranoid and don't like the exact place we live and work out there on the interwebs.  

December 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, friend! 

We hope this letter finds you well.  This year has been full of the unexpected for us, and in case it’s been a while since we’ve actually had the chance for a face-to-face conversation, then let us fill you in on what’s been happening with a glimpse into a typical day for us:

Somewhere between 6:30-7am: Jason and I wake up for work.  Hold on, you’re thinking, Jason is there? I thought he was supposed to be on an overseas job? Well, yes, he was, but -surprise! - two months into it, he got the news that he got to come home.  So while it was a disappointment in some ways because Jason was looking forward to the job, we are glad it meant he got to be here most of the year.

7am-8am: Drive to the train station and commute from MD into DC.  One of the things we had done to preparation for Jason’s absence, was to move in with Sarah’s parents for the year, so she didn’t have to be solo.  So when – surprise! – Jason came home, it meant, - surprise! – we both get to live with Sarah’s mom and dad until we figure out what comes next.  We do miss our short commute that we had living in DC, but the train is still a better option than fighting beltway traffic.

8am-depends-on-the-day pm: Work at some Federal economic agency.  It’s hard to believe, but we’ve both been at our jobs for 8 years now, and we still only sit a few cubicles away from each other.  Although we don’t often work on the same projects, commuting, working, and living together sure is convenient, and makes us wonder how couples who aren’t always together ever get the chance to talk.  It also makes us wonder if we should get separate hobbies.  :) We’ll get to experience it though in January, when Jason is going to be on a rotational program with another related office.

6pm-7pm: Commute home. One thing we are excited about is that this commute will look different next year.  This is because we will be getting off at a different train stop and walking five minutes to our new house in MD.  For the past 8 years, the longest either of us has lived in one place is 18 months (about what our stint with Sarah’s parents will be), so we’re pretty excited to have a place that we are planning to be in for a while.  Part of me (Sarah) wonders if we’ll get bored and want to move anyways.  :)  This house was another thing that was a bit unexpected.  We’d been talking about various neighborhoods in the tri-state area (DC, MD, VA) for the past year, but didn’t really think we’d buy for another year or so.  Plus, we were really leaning towards going back to DC.  However, this opportunity kind of fell into our laps. It has the walkability to public transportation/shops that we loved in DC, plus nearby family, good schools, and a lot more square footage that we hope to grow into one day.  So again – surprise! – one week we aren’t even looking at houses, and the next we own a house that will be built this spring.

7pm-8pm: Depending on the day, we may be working out in preparation for the half marathon we did in November, attending an Alumni Association meeting (clearly this is Sarah – who else loved hanging out with her teachers so much?), and on the really rare occasion, we’ve actually been able to eat and be done with dinner this early (see next hour).

8pm-9pm: Some kind of dinner “event” occurs.  Sometimes it’s with friends.  Sometimes it’s with family.  Sometimes it’s just us.  Jason has been becoming quite the chef this year, especially when it comes to anything dough.  (Sarah has even taken to Instagramming his creations with the hashtag #doughmanstrikesagain, if you are into that sort of thing.)  He’s become quite the expert at homemade pasta, pizza dough, potpies, and of course, cookies.  The “dough man” has also managed to use up an entire 25-pound Costco bag of flour this year.  It’s been fun to make different parts of the meal together, but it’s not always fast, hence dinner becoming an “event.” We also try to make enough for leftovers, so we don’t have to do this every night.  In addition to dabbling in food, Jason has been starting to use grains to make his own beer.  The first attempt will be after Christmas, when Jason’s dad, the true beer-making expert, will be around to supervise.

9pm-10pm: In the summer, this was our favorite time to go to the local ice cream shop. Lately, it’s when we are making house-related decisions (usually involving spreadsheets and pinterest).   Often, it’s been the time we get caught up on our current TV series with Sarah’s parents.  Even though we set up our own space upon moving in, we retreat to it a lot less often than we expected, and have enjoyed the nightly ritual together.

Ok, so we usually get sucked into watching “one more episode” until later than 10pm, but we also don’t always just work every day either.  Our weekends have been packed with exploring local wine country, hanging out with our nieces and nephews at their sporting events/ orchestra concerts/ apple picking, and visiting with friends and family all over the country.  Sarah somehow used her 30thbirthday in August as an excuse to do fun stuff all year (think telling the waitress 3 months later). We also managed to squeeze in a ski trip to Aspen that we’ve been talking about for years right before Christmas (so if you are getting this after Christmas, that is why – sorry).

So that’s a glimpse into our day and year.  We’ve had both unexpected blessing and trials, but grateful for the redemption Christmas reminds us of, and the truth of Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of a man plan his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  Catch up with our adventures throughout the year (or just on the rare occasion that Sarah updates it) at our blog, .  All of our love and blessings to you and your family!


Jason and Sarah

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Goodbye Summer

Tradition.  I like new experiences, new places.  They're exciting.  Tradition has roots.  One year when I was in middle school, our annual family trip was to New England instead of the familiar stretch of beach in Maryland. When we got home though, my sister and I asked my parents when we were going to go on vacation.  It just wasn't a complete summer without the beach.

This year we introduced the kids to the Ocean City experience. Dillon stopped to play with any ball he could find, whether or not the owner was using it. Claire's feet conveniently hurt halfway through her daily walks on the beach with my dad. At least that's what she told us from her perch atop his shoulders.  They loved running full speed down the boardwalk, only stopping for dogs (Claire) or bikes (Dillon). They loved it. I think it's in their blood.

Jason has come with me every year since we started dating.  The summer he was gone, my parents came with me.  I think we spent more time eating at our favorite places than actually on the beach.  I fill him in on my memories.  Here is where we always get subs.  Here is where we stayed when our friends came with us.  I can't believe my entire high school class all came for the day when we organized it.  This is where I stayed with friends when I was in college...feeling so responsible on our first trip without any parents.  Wow, that was a long time ago... this one time...we always...

Why did you always go here? he asks. It's not exactly the prettiest beach.  There were practical reasons, but I forget.

We plan out where we will go next time.  This spot will be good for when we have kids.  Blurry mental pictures.  Other years we've gone to other beaches but we still squeeze in a day trip to Ocean City.  Because we love the beach so much or just because it's what we do? 

We always underestimate the drive.  We stop at my favorite gas station.  I tell the same story each time. One time when it was just my sister and I we ran out of windshield wiper fluid but were too cheap to pay for more, so I tried to stick my hand out the window and splash water on the salt-covered windshield while traveling 50 mph.  None of the water got on the windshield.  All of it got on my face. 

We get donuts.  We get sand in the car.  It's crowded.  It's full of tacky shops.  Full of memories.  Pictures from the past.  Glimpses of the future.  Tradition carried on until next year.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

30 + "Deep"

Guys, I turned 30 this month. I kind of got confused last year, and thought I was turning 30 then, so it was a little bit of a relief to have another year in my 20's. Oh my days of being young and naive. I know. I'm not "that old." And I know if turning 30 happened a while ago for you I just made you feel "really old," and I'm sorry. So I turned 30, but I guess I also turned into a bit of a deep thinker, because along with this birthday, I’ve got some musings and mulling-overs to share.

Milestones, in my case, the start of a new decade, have a way of turning your head, shifting your gaze to the path you’ve come down, identifying the steps that brought you to the present. The good is clearer, but so are regrets, and changing directions seems little harder. I don’t know why I didn’t have these thoughts last year when I thought I was turning 30… I don’t know, it wasn’t a big deal then, but it’s been a different year. This year, I approached my birthday with a heavier heart. And while responsibilities, physical pains, and experiences do make me feel older, I think it's more mental. 2014 has been full of things in life not working out as expected. Not always disappointments, but not always pleasant either. Moves and jobs haven't panned out. Plans and hopes have been thrown out the window and smashed on the pavement. Hurts and trials have required opportunities for love and forgiveness. We've walked alongside friends who buried their precious daughter. We watched others lose loved ones to recklessness, sickness and unexplainable reasons. More than ever I'm aware of the broken world we live in, and the destruction of sin around us and through us. If you take an even bigger step back and consider the suffering that occurs on a global scale, it's truly overwhelming. It makes me want to throw up my hands in a teary mess.

We often sings songs at church that express an anticipation of heaven, such as the Horatio Spafford hymn, It Is Well, which has this verse:

"And Lord haste the day when our faith shall be sight.
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul."

In years past, I often had the thought, "This is weird. Does anyone realize what are we signing? Haste the day? Are we asking to die sooner? Um. Heaven is probably going to be good, but I kind enjoy my life too. God, don't really hasten it too much, or maybe just wait until after I get to do more cool things."

I think I get it now though. I don't enjoy life less - on the contrary, I'm seeing how fast it flies and am doing my best to treasure it. More and more though, I'm growing in my anticipation of heaven. I'm ready for a world that isn't broken, that isn't full of injustices and hurts. Ready to reunite with loved ones. Ready to "see in full" what is only faith now. The truth in Philippians 1:21-23 resounds more clearly: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me... I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”

Horatio Spafford wrote that hymn, It Is Well, after terrible tragedy struck his family in 1873. According to Wikipedia (also what I learned from Adventures in Odessey), his son died of scarlet fever, he experienced financial ruin during the Chicago Fire, and then the rest of his children died in a shipwreck. Yet he wrote that hymn while making the same voyage. Such circumstances contradiction the notion that anything would be “well.” However, I love the reminder that even when my world is not well, my soul can be, because as the hymn says, “Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.” That truth still holds.

So… happy birthday to me! All my friends are now glad I didn’t have a party to celebrate. Can you imagine if I had been called upon to make some kind of speech? I’m only thirty and am all doom and gloom and sound ready to check out – and I’ve got what I hope are decades to go! I’m sure I’ll have some kind of gems to share about failing bodies and the deplorable state the world is heading to in a few years. But seriously, whether you are older or younger, maybe you know what I'm talking about. The sure things in life are death and taxes, though "trials" could be added to the list as well, right? Yet not despair.

Milestones not only give you pause to reflect on the past, but they also create fresh hope for the future. I think this next decade is going to be awesome as I watch my nieces and nephews grow up, experience life with my best friend, and insert some other happy cliché about the unknown here. If I'm honest, I know the future will probably hold more hurts too, but with it, the truth that "It is well."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sarah Van Winkle

When I was in college, I fell asleep in class so much that I literally could take notes while dozing off.  The notes usually weren't all that coherent.  One time I woke up to find the words "green" and "God" scrawled in the mix of more economic/math-y words.  Um.. my subconscious is spiritual and artistic?  The only time that my sleeping habit was mildly embarrassing, was when during a night class when the lights were off for slides (equals zero percent chance anyone would stay awake), the teacher spoke directly to me in answer to a question I'd asked earlier in class.  I don't think he really noticed or cared that I was asleep, but it was just not fun to wake up to the professor saying, "Sarah, this is the answer to your earlier question."  Another time, I startled myself so much once I woke up that my immediate reaction was to raise my hand up in the air as if to ask a question.  I think the professor's back was turned so it was just the kids sitting next to me who thought I was a weirdo.  Maybe my hand-in-the-air reaction is more of an insight into how much I liked to talk to my teachers, and ask questions, and that they all actually knew my name, but that's another topic for another day.

The thing is, this sleeping habit was not only restricted to class.  I basically fell asleep any time I was sitting down and not actively engaging: Sunday sermons, car rides (while riding, never driving), movie theaters, etc.  My friends were both amused and amazed at my ability to sleep anywhere.  But guys, I have had a revelation in the past couple years: that was not normal - I have just been sleep deprived my whole life.

I started my daily coffee habit one semester of college when I had an 8 am multi-variable calculus class every day, and a few years later was already so dependent on caffeine that I would get headaches when I didn't have a cup in the afternoons as well.  I worked hard in college, but still was really social, involved in sports, part-time jobs or other extracurriculars, meaning I rarely made it to bed before midnight and usually was up by 7.  Many nights 1-3am was a more typical bedtime. 

Post-college, I got a job in DC, commuted an hour each way, started part time graduate classes, and got old.  (Seriously, it was amazing how even a few years after undergrad, no amount of unfinished schoolwork was worth staying up past midnight.)  Still pounding coffee, falling asleep on the commute, and eating just to to stay awake in class, I just thought how I felt was normal, since that's how my life had been for ten years.  A few times in between hitting the snooze, I would dream that I was so tired that I actually slept through an entire day and was waking up say, on Wednesday instead of Thursday.  My mom, after hearing of Rip Van Winkle, would actually say things like this to my brother-in-law when he fell asleep on the couch, "Jimmy, wake up.  It's Christmas time.  You slept through the whole year."

But then my life changed: I moved to DC, finished grad school and got married all within a few months.  No more commute.  No more school.  And a lot more sleep.  Our "compromise" in marriage for the first year or two was that I adapted to Jason's earlier bed time and he adapted to my later wake up time.  If only we could resolve everything that way! But! I finally got the full amount of rest (ok.. sometimes more) than my body needed for a consistent amount of time, and it was amazing! Revelation upon revelation!  I no longer struggled to stay awake.  Deciding to exercise instead of napping was no longer torture.  I felt great, and my health, while never awful, was the best it's probably ever been!  I knew what it felt like to be alive! For some reason, I always just assumed that 7 hours was all I needed, but it's not! (This was no shock to my dad, who would often have to wake me up because my alarm had been going off for so long and so loudly that he could hear it one floor away with headphones on.  He and my mom did not understand how the fact that I never had enough sleep was news to me.)

Alas, all good things must come to an end.  Since our commute time was extended again with the move back to Maryland, I have more frequently needed that second or third cup of coffee.  I cannot really blame the commute, however.  We get up earlier, and although I'm not staying up doing work, we have actually been going to bed later because my dad, a notorious night owl, has gotten us hooked onto a few different TV series that he doesn't start until after he gets back from evening meetings.  I guess going to bed late isn't as bad when it's for fun reasons.

Now, I will say that even during the times of my life I was getting less sleep, it was still more than some people get.  I certainly had the choice as to how to spend my time when some people may not.  Moms of young kids, people with grueling work schedules, and plenty of other people have a much tougher schedule, so if that is you, how do you do it!? You have my serious respect and sympathy.  I'm not trying to complain, and I know that on many levels this is so trivial, but I am just fascinated that I just never even knew I was sleep deprived so much of my life until now!  I mean, I feel like a real adult now because I actually wake up ON MY OWN SOME WEEKEND before 8 am, filled with the same amount of wonder as Pinocchio at being a real boy.  So that's it. That's my story.  I never know it wasn't normal to be so tired - what else in life am I missing?  Is tofu actually tasty?  Or is Game of Thrones really that good?  What else do I think is normal that isn't?