On Breakfast Cereal

I just downloaded the new Word for Mac, and I opened up some old documents to test the program out. In doing so, I found this memoir that I wrote three years ago though I never posted it anywhere. It made me laugh, so I thought I would share.

* * *

With my chin propped on my right fist, I stared at the ingredients list of the carton of soy milk in front of me. Low calories, low fat, low carbs. A little fiber. Lots of protein and calcium. Plenty of riboflavin, whatever that is. Maybe it’s a B vitamin. I made a mental note to look that up later.

I untwisted the cap and poured a small amount into my glass. I stared at the white liquid for a few seconds, then drank it. Swallowing, I set the glass down. Then I returned my soy milk to the refrigerator, reached for the fat-free peach-flavored yogurt, and finished eating breakfast.


The next morning, I found myself staring at the soy milk carton again. This time, however, the milk was joined by a box of healthy, grown-up cereal, a spoon, and a bowl that once belonged to my grandmother. Using a white plastic measuring cup, I measured out three-quarters of a cup of cereal and dumped it into the bowl. Once I started pouring the milk over the cereal, I began to question myself. How much should I pour? When should I stop? Should I pour just enough to wet the cereal, or should the cereal be completely covered?

Finally, I stopped, realizing the amount of milk really didn’t matter. I slid the spoon into the bowl and pushed the cereal around, enjoying the sound of  the flakes hitting against the spoon. As I put the first spoonful of cereal and milk into my mouth, I realized that I was experiencing this for the first time in my life. At twenty-two years old, I had never eaten a bowl of cereal and milk.

As a baby, I had been diagnosed with a milk allergy, so I avoided most dairy products as a child. Eventually, I was able to eat cheese and ice cream, but I never liked the taste of milk. As a secondary result, I rarely ate cereal, save the occasional bowl of dry Froot Loops, which I sorted by color. First, I ate pink, then orange, then green, and finally purple and blue together because they’re my favorite colors. But I never drank milk.

Until now. A few weeks before, I’d been diagnosed with diabetes. In addition to insulin and other medication, my doctor put me on a 1,500-calorie diet. I had to have a certain amount of dairy products per day, and the dietician suggested I try soy milk, which, combined with grown-up, healthy cereal instead of my beloved Froot Loops, became just one example of the dietary changes diabetes had forced upon me.

So I sat at my kitchen table, eating cereal and milk for the first time and wondering whether I actually liked what I was eating. The cereal tasted good, but wet? And combined with milk? I started thinking absurdly. Who was the first person to pour milk on cereal? And how many other Americans were eating the same breakfast at that moment?

I finally finished the cereal, then looked into the bowl at all the milk left. Should I drink it? I imagined myself tilting the bowl into my mouth and slurping, but that didn’t appeal to me. Neither did drinking it with a spoon. So I ended up pouring the milk down the drain. After putting the cereal and milk away, I realized that, although this could be some sort of rite-of-passage in my life, I still had no idea how I felt about cereal and milk.

I vowed to try again the next week . . . after I got tired of yogurt.

* * *

For the record, I was right. Riboflavin is vitamin B2.

Also, I still don’t like cereal and milk. I tried it a few more times after that first one, but I’m not a fan. Give me cereal bars, low-sugar oatmeal, cinnamon rolls, omelets, almost any breakfast food, but not cereal and milk.

Another note: although it sounds made-up, I really did measure out the cereal. During those first few months, I counted every bite that I put in my mouth, exerting superb amounts of control over the food I ate. I was afraid of eating one flake too many. 🙂

Hello, 2011…

…you’re not starting off the way I thought you would. But we’ll get to that momentarily.

In January, I made a list of 5 goals for the year. I accomplished exactly none of them. I came close on a few and completely abandoned others. It seems that sometimes life takes unexpected turns. Many of them. Sometimes all at once.

This past year ended in ways that I didn’t expect and began similarly. But let’s review–my goals and my 2010 before I get to speculating about what 2011 will hold for me.

Goal 1: Don’t check my email before I go to work in the morning. Sometimes, I do, but now I’m more careful not to lose track of time.

Goal 2: Read 100 books I’d never read before. Well, I made it to 79, but my downfall was that I re-read a lot of favorites, which took time away from previously unread books. Alas, this is still quite an accomplishment, I feel.

Goal 3: Devote one hour a week to scrapbooking or crocheting. This resolution was made before I was accepted to Gardner-Webb, before I had a semester in which I taught 36 students in 2 sections of remedial writing while working a full-time job and attending graduate school. Yeah, it’s hard to find time for crafting when there is not enough time in one’s week to begin with.

Goal 4: Help my parents organize and clean their house. This is a work-in-progress. A slow one. But maybe one day.

Goal 5: Mark 12 things off The List. I marked 11 off. Close. So close.

Now, let’s see how the year shaped up, shall we?

January: The year started off great. On Jan. 2, Harvin, Ticcoa, Georgetown, and I headed to Savannah, where I marked two items off the list: visiting the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home and climbing the Tybee Island Lighthouse. January also marked the beginning of my second semester of teaching at NGU and an unexpected acceptance into the English M.A. program at Gardner-Webb University, a program that I love being a part of. All in all, a good month.

February: This month brought the beginning of the Lent season, which once again proved to be a great learning experience. Also, at the end of February, my friend Chris and I traveled to Lexington, KY, to visit a New Monastic community called Communality. During that weekend, I made several new, amazing friends, and I learned a lot about how to live in a community of believers who love each other deeply.

March: This month brought several more adventures, courtesy of The List: I went to Jamboread, a children’s author festival at the Spartanburg County Public Library, with Harvin, Ticcoa, and Becky, where we met Lois Lowry, Jane Yolen, and Paul O. Zelinsky. Then, later in the month, Harvin, Ticcoa, Michele, Stephen, and I headed down to Milledgeville, GA, to visit Andalusia, home of Flannery O’Connor, and Eatonton, GA, to visit the Uncle Remus Museum.

April: This month, I focused mostly on school. Working on final papers and presentations, getting my students ready for finals, etc. I also bought a MacBook and attending my cousin Summer’s wedding.

May: Most of what happened in May was also school-related. The end of my first semester at Gardner-Webb, finishing up that class in Caribbean Women’s Writing and starting a summer school class on African-American literature, which was also great. This was also the last concert I attended (how has it been so long?): Civil Twilight and Switchfoot at The Music Farm in Charleston!

June brought my 25th birthday on the 10th, on which I climbed a rock wall, one of the items on the list. The next day, Harvin and I headed to Myrtle Beach to stay with our respective families at the SC Firefighter’s Association Annual Convention. Woohoo! I also visited the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum here in Greenville, marking another item off the list.

July brought the move from our apartment in Greer to our little house in Greenville, so that month was mostly consumed with packing, cleaning, cleaning, unpacking, settling in. That sort of thing. Also, a trip to Filbert, SC, to meet SC writer Dori Sanders.

August: The first week of this month was The Second Annual Road Trip of Epicness. Because Harvin was experiencing back pain, the itinerary changed drastically in the few days before we left, but the trip involved Ticcoa and I driving to Pennsylvania, making stops along the way, and Harvin flying up to meet us at Michele’s aunt house, where we stayed for a few days. My favorite memory of this trip was visiting Antietam National Battlefield, where my great-great-great grandfather was killed during the Civil War. We also visited Philadelphia, touring the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall.

Upon the return to SC, I started my third semester of teaching at NGU, where I had 36 students enrolled in my classes, more than I’ve ever taught before. I also started my third semester at Gardner-Webb, taking Literary Theory, a class which I really enjoyed.

September was mostly settling into school routine. Balancing teaching all those students with my work in the library and the writing center and my homework for lit theory. The first NGU football game. Apple-picking with Harvin and the Leisters. And, most importantly, my decision to apply for a spot on a mission team to Haiti.

October seems to be the point when my life sped up. The first weekend was the Southern Appalachian Culture Series at Gardner-Webb, my first attendance of a literary conference. Then, on Oct. 12, I applied for my passport. On Oct. 19, I found out I was on the mission team to Haiti. On Oct. 21, I had my first meeting about mission teams and found out about the cholera epidemic in Haiti, and on Oct. 22, I received my passport (marking #100 off the List). In the midst of all of that, I attended my friend Sarah’s wedding, worked a quiz bowl tournament, went to NGU’s Homecoming, graded and editing lots and lots of papers, and did tons of literary theory.

November: So. Much. Work! Grading student essays, working longer hours in the writing center than I ever intended. Writing literary analyses, reading convoluted theorists, drinking lots of coffee, sleeping not enough. Thanksgiving Break with my family.

December: By far, the most difficult month out of my whole year. The end of the semester at North Greenville, and saying goodbye to my students and friends. Getting ready for my own final exam at G-W. Looking forward to Christmas. Then, on Friday, December 10, I got a phone call from my dad, who told me that my grandmother, who had been in the nursing home for 6 years with Alzheimer’s wasn’t doing well. (I’ve written about her before here.) She had stopped eating, and she wasn’t expected to live much longer. I spent the weekend grieving for what was coming, wincing every time my phone ring, waking up early every morning to call my dad and find out if Mama Kat had made it through the night.

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, I was at work, with plans to leave early because my final exam was that evening. Just after 1:00, my mom called to say that my grandmother would die that afternoon. Through the grace and peace of God, I made it to her bedside in time to say my goodbyes. My family was standing around her bedside when she stopped breathing at 4:17 that afternoon. The funeral was on Friday. Maybe I’ll post later about what it’s been like to lose a grandmother whom I love dearly, but not now.

Anyway, as a result of my grandmother’s death, I didn’t get to take my final exam for lit theory. I have an incomplete in the class, and I’ll make up the final later. The student in me hates that this class is still hovering, incomplete; at the same time, I’m glad I made it home to say goodbye to Mama Kat, and that’s worth more than any grade.

After all of that, I still had to get through Christmas while trying to frantically prepare for the trip to Haiti. I’ve been following news coming out of Haiti for a long time, and little of it has been good. Thousands dying from cholera, and many more contracting the terrible disease. Many days of riots, some of even which caused the airport in Port-au-Prince to be shut down for a week. Distrust of foreign aid workers and the Haitian government.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve, I was meeting with fellow team member Eliza to plan our lessons for what we would be teaching in Haiti. I got a message during that meeting from our team leader, telling me that we had new information and were reconsidering the trip. An announcement about the elections is to be made tomorrow, and the potential for rioting is high once more. Yesterday, New Year’s Day, the trip was officially postponed. We may go over the summer. Who knows, though?

Back to the beginning of this post and my expectations for this year and last. I didn’t expect to lose my grandmother right before Christmas (who does?). And I fully expected that my Christmas break would involve much prayer and preparation for Haiti, culminating in my first overseas mission trip. Instead, everything in my life just seems off-balance. I miss my grandmother daily while simultaneously rejoicing that she is no longer suffering. And since September, I’ve been so focused on Haiti and my trip there that I have thought of little else. Now, when I should be finishing packing and on my way to the airport just 12 hours from now, I find myself unsure of what I should be doing. I’m not boarding a plane tomorrow morning. I’m not going to be in the Caribbean this time tomorrow afternoon. Instead, I’ll go back to work in the library this week. Beyond that, I’m just not sure of what my life is supposed to look like right now. I’m feeling all sorts of emotions simultaneously: severe disappointment that I’m not going to Haiti right now; relief that I won’t be caught in the midst of volatile political tension; a bit of guilt for feeling relieved.

Every situation in my life right now is truly out of my hands, and I’m reeling from the experience. From past experience, however, I know that God works the greatest in my life when I admit that I cannot control anything. All I have to grasp onto right now is God’s promise that He will never leave me or forsake me and the knowledge that everything works together for His glory. And while I don’t understand why God would bring me so close to Haiti only to have the trip postponed, I do know that I’ve learned so much by simply being obedient when He called me to go to Haiti. I know that I care so much about Haiti that I can’t wait to be there. And while my traveling to Haiti may not happen during the first week of 2011 as I previously thought, I have hope that it will happen sometime this year. And maybe my heart won’t be changed while I’m in Haiti, but will instead be changed because I’m simply willing to be a part of God’s kingdom.

There will be no New Year’s resolutions or goals. No expectations for the year beyond seeing where God takes me.

December Books

77. The Proposal, Lori Wick.

78. The Compound, S. A. Bodeen. For my trip home for Christmas, I decided to explore the world of books on CD, and this one’s title and premise appealed to me. It’s quite good, and I keep finding myself wondering how I would have liked it if I’d read the words. As involved as the story is, I feel like I wouldn’t have been able to put it down had it been in book form. And while I hesitated to ever listen to a book on CD because I love actual books so much, I think this will be a genre I explore for all the driving back and forth to school that I do.

79. Six Rules of Maybe, Deb Caletti.

So here we are at the end (or, well, the beginning of a new year and a new challenge). I fell 21 books shy of my goal for 100 previously unread books. However, when I challenged myself, I didn’t know what the following year would hold, and I’m pleased to see how far I did get towards my goal. Perhaps next year’s challenge will be more conservative. We shall see.