That one time…

8. Discuss a spontaneous moment in your life that turned out to be fantastic.

I am not a spontaneous person. Seriously. Spontaneity to me is stopping for doughnuts on the way to work without thinking about it except the 30 seconds before I pull into the parking lot.

So for my 25th birthday, when my friend Steve said “what do you want to do?” and I said, “I don’t know all my friends are in Alabama.” He said, “Let’s go to Alabama.”

He said this on a Wednesday. My birthday was on Saturday. I had to be back at work in Delaware on Sunday at 8:00am. There was no way. There was no time to plan. It was 17 hours one way. I have to work Friday. I could take off. I did take off. So we left Thursday night. and drove all night. and we arrived Friday morning. And left Saturday afternoon. It was the most insane, unplanned, last minute thing ever.

Except for the time I got a tattoo. But that’s another story. For a different day.

I don’t remember much of the drive, but I don’t think you could have put 3 more different personalities together. Steve liked to listen to K-pop. Or was it J-pop? Korean pop music. Japanese pop music. I don’t know, it’s all the same. And it’s horrible and weird. Christian likes Electronic Dance Music. I like indie/folk type music. Not to mention our personalities. So for the most part, the car rides are one big blur to me. That was probably not the ‘fantastic’ part of the story.

But I got to spend my 25th birthday with so many people that I loved. I had been living in Delaware for 9 months and I was terribly home sick. I still hadn’t made a ton of friends, and I was actually really sure that my birthday was going to a lonely day. And it wasn’t. It was surrounded by people I love in my old apartment. We took a million pictures.

And you know what? On Sunday, at work, I was so dead. But it was so so worth it. Super spontaneous = super fantastic.

Would I do it again? If I really thought hard about it, no. Who wants to spend almost 40 hours of almost 72 in a car? No amount of shifting gets you the perfect position to sleep in a car. No amount of caffeine can make up for the sleep loss that comes with an epic road trip like that.

But do I love the memory? Yes. I can never be grateful enough for Steve and Christian for going out of their way to make my birthday memorable that year by doing that crazy, stupid, uncomfortable trip just so I could have a great birthday. I had friends who went out of their way to be in Birmingham to see me. People who were around that changed their day around to come see me and hug me and wish me happy birthday. It was a fantastic trip because of the people.

Blind Believing

7. Something that shook your belief system to the core (a big disappointment in your life). 

I’m diving right in.

I won’t be writing about a disappointment, but I do remember a moment, just a tiny moment of my life that was actually enormous. It was a conversation, a comment, really, but I walked away shell-shocked. And the more I digested the conversation, the more I was changed by it. The things I chewed up and digested my whole life were suddenly under a bright light in a small room being investigated by the realization that I had blindly believed what I had been taught by others.

I was in my first year of Highlands College and I was in a car with a couple people. And for some reason they were talking about how they had baptized someone. And I said to my peer, “I thought only ministers/pastors could baptize someone.” And he asked, “Where is that in scripture?” And I realized I didn’t have an answer. I just replied that in the Methodist church, you had to be a minister to do that. If I replied at all. I don’t remember too much, but I remember how shocked I was. I remember realizing that I had accepted everything I believed to that point.

And it shook me. I was raised in the Methodist church. I went to the same church from the age of 4 to 18. And I retained a good bit of what I was taught. A lot of tradition and a lot of “do’s” and “do not’s” – and it was just the way I understood church and the Bible. And I never thought to look into it, or decide if I agree or disagree. The belief system I took as my own was officially challenged.

This conversation, this moment, it changed me. I started researching things about communion and baptisms, I expanded my Bible reading to commentaries and listened to more sermons. I stopped “taking people’s word for it” and discovered God’s word on my own. I prayed and asked God what he meant by this thing or that sentence. I discovered what the Bible said about things clearly, and what it left unclear and why it was unclear. I started to see that the reason the Methodist church did things the way it did is because people decided it needed to be done that way. I let it sink in that church denominations were created by man and that God’s word is infallible and people sometimes get it wrong. Or they get it weird. Or they just get it in a way that I don’t agree with.

This is the moment that I stopped identifying myself by what KIND of church I went to, and just decided to tell people that I love Jesus and who cares what kind of church I do or don’t attend? Those traditions or lack thereof don’t define me.

And there are still many things that I don’t know or don’t understand about the Bible, but I no longer blind-believe.

Alyssa.

6. Write about your best friend (not significant other) and what makes them special.

I do not have a sparkling history with female friendships. Most of them have disintegrated over time, some of them had abrupt endings I wasn’t ready for, one ended in basically every girls nightmare, but mostly they’ve just quietly faded like jeans that have been washed many times.

At this point in my life, I only have so much energy to invest in friendships anyway. I feel like I have a core group of ladies, all over the U.S. really, that I would consider my closest friends. ‘Best’ implies one, but I really have at least 4 or 5 ‘best’ friends, so that’s kind of my middle finger to the English language and I don’t care. For the focus of this blog, Alyssa is my best friend.

There are roughly 8 people that I can truly be myself with. 4 of those are immediate family. 1 is my husband. 1 is Alyssa. [The others are irrelevant for this post.] I do not filter my thoughts or feelings when I talk to Alyssa. I’m never embarrassed by my words or actions or questions or thoughts when I share with her. I am truly my 100% unfiltered self with her. I don’t feel a need to please, and I’m not worried I’ll disappoint her. I don’t wonder if she’s judging me (usually she tells me if she is) or if she’ll hate me if I do a certain thing, and I don’t usually have to explain myself to her because she gets me.

That, among all the things that make her special, is what makes her the most special. Because I believe that this isn’t just true for me and our friendship, but for all people who know and are close to Alyssa. In her presence, we’ve found someone we can be our true selves with. Our conversations with her are raw and filled with the awkward beauty that only shows itself when a person can share all the things hiding in the cracks of our souls. Something about Alyssa beckons you to pour out the things you stuffed inside those cracks, and without judgment, she listens. And then she accepts you. For exactly who you are in the moment that you are. I know so few people who, when you’ve put yourself on the line, she takes it and says, “you are enough.” I have gone most of my life believing I was not enough, particularly in my female friendships. But I have never felt less with Alyssa, nor has she ever done anything to make me feel less.

I have more to write, because although that is my #1 reason Alyssa is one of my favorite people alive today, it is not my only reason.

This sentence will never truly capture how intensely I mean this, but Alyssa is thoughtful. Which is the most understated sentence on this blog. Tangible examples? The presents she buys/makes for people. A gift should say, “I understand you and everything you are” and all the gifts she’s given to others and the ones I receive they are just that. It honestly floors me, because I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who understands her ‘people’ the way she does. One of a kind is another giant understatement.

Alyssa is honest. And honesty is all I ask of people. Seriously. I learned a long time ago it is THE thing for me. It’s a deal breaker in a relationship. Dishonesty boils my blood. So Alyssa’s blunt honesty is one of my favorite things about her. I can always count on her to give it to me straight, even, and especially if it’s something I don’t want to hear. Again, she’s like that with the people she loves. She’s strikingly honest and says what needs to be said to the people who need to hear it.

Alyssa is funny and a joy to be around. You might be like, okay yeah but there are a lot of people who are funny and a joy to be around. But Alyssa has my kind of humor. Her sarcasm is top of the line, her wit is off the charts, and I often want to screen shot our banter texting and show the world that we’re basically Fey and Poehler but not as famous. Yet. To say that Alyssa “gets me” is cliche, but so true. I’m circling back around to my other point, sometimes my humor can be a little dark or extreme, but there’s no need to filter, because Alyssa comes back with the perfect response. Every. Time.

There are a million things I love about Alyssa.
But this is what makes her special.

 

*insert globe pic*

5. Discuss some of the things on your bucket list
My bucket list is 90% travel destinations. If you’ve known me for more than 24 hours, this cannot be a surprise to you. All my locations hold special meaning though! So… happy reading!
1. Verona, Italy
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I’m going to go ahead and assume that you, my dear reader, are not going to be too judgmental when I open my heart up to you and tell you some of the special meaning behind these places for me.
Okay, having said that, I’ll let you guess why I want to go to Verona.
“Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene.
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their lives. Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows doth with their death, bury their parents strife.”
Yes, that is the opening for Romeo and Juliet.
Yes, I wrote that from memory.
There is probably nothing super special about Verona. (Save that it is located in Italy.) And I understand that Shakespeare didn’t WRITE this in Verona, it’s just set it Verona. I know. I’m an adult, I know things.
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But Romeo and Juliet holds a really special place in my heart. It’s my favorite play. I honestly find it so beautiful and so tragic. I weep every time I read it. Romeo is one of my favorite fictional characters and Leonardo DiCaprio is my favorite Romeo. It’s okay that we can’t be friends anymore, but one day, I will read Romeo and Juliet sitting in a cafe in Verona, and you won’t get to see the artsy photos that I post about it cause we aren’t friends anymore.
2. Hobbiton 
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The other thing most people know about me within 24 hours of meeting me is my love for The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. Yes, it’s that fandom movie obsession thing and whatever. But I’m going to give you a slightly more sentimental reason for wanting to visit and perhaps you’ll understand more and judge less. (*cough* Alyssa *cough*)
“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit…”
When I was in 4th grade, my mother and I read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien together. We would read chapters out loud to each other each night, or almost anyway, until we finished it. It’s a memory I associate with love- love from my mother, love for my mother, and love for reading. The Shire, the Misty Mountains, Erebor, Lake Town, the Lonely Mountain, these were the far off places my childhood imagination explored. They came with me to adulthood. When I finally read the Lord of the Rings series, I added locations: Rohan, Mordor, Gondor, but I also went back to The Shire.
You can imagine my excitement when I realized that The Shire was a real place. So it’s been on my bucket list for years.
3. Visit WWII memorials/ camps
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I love history. Love to study it and read it and I find it interesting and engaging. However, This (WWII) is my favorite time period to study. I am morbidly fascinating with all the events and details of this World War. I’ve been to DC six or more times, and visited the Holocaust Museum at least 4 of them. I love fiction novels set in this time period, movies set in this time period, I am beyond fascinated by every single aspect of this war. I took a class in college called “Remembering WWII: Europe” about how different countries in Europe remembered WWII in their literature, museums, statues, etc… I waited three years to take that history class because I specifically wanted to study WWII.
I grew up in The South (Georgia) and being able to visit historical sites had a great impact on my life. A lot of our family vacations had some element of history to them. I always feel weird admitting this, but I want to take a tour of Europe and see the camps and the statues.
I’ll finish up on a happier note…
4. The Globe theater 
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You already know I like Shakespeare. There’s a good chance you know I was a theater major in college. Combine that with my appreciation for history and it doesn’t take a detective to figure out why I want to go here.

ACTUAL FIRST TIME SHAKESPEARE PLAYS PERFORMED HERE. This is history and theater and SHAKESPEARE, people!! I’m dying to go here. So much so that two different people have brought me mugs from the gift shop. I also had a friend who was in London briefly, and took a picture outside of the Globe JUST FOR ME. Like, crunched her schedule, forced her travel companions to go to this place, and took a picture outside just so I could see.

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Proof that my friends love me and believe in my dreams.

Open.

4. Something in life that gives you balance

There was a time period in my life where I kind of liked being out of touch with what was going on in the world. I kind of reveled in the reactions of others when I looked confused at their pop-culture references. I liked being able to shimmy out of conversations when they turned political and news-oriented.

But I also liked the peace of mind it brought me. It was a little “ignorance is bliss” – okay maybe a lot.

But something changed this year.

Maybe it’s the fact that things the President decides affect me more now that I’m getting older. I’ve seen how certain decisions Obama has made (healthcare) is affecting my world directly and I’m seeing the importance of having a President whose values are similar to my own. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that this years election season is kind of like a circus.

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But in the last few months, I’ve been listening to an elections podcast. It’s data driven, not opinion and yakkity-yak nonsense, and I’m learning all the things about our electoral system that I didn’t pay attention to in High School. I find myself looking forward to this podcast (FiveThirtyEight), it’s actually one of my top two favorite podcasts! (This American Life is the other.) Also, I subscribed to a daily email called TheSkimm. It gives me the latest news in a really fun way. It’s kind of like one page newspaper, and it’s clever. I feel informed, but not depressed. I also don’t feel like there’s a lot of bias there.

I am an artsy-language-food-and-fun-please kind of person. I prefer art museums and afternoons full of reading. I like to color and write and did I mention reading? I love plays and Shakespeare and I hate math and science. I think I’m stereotypical in that sense.

So these new things, keeping up with the elections and what’s going on in the world, give me balance.

Most importantly, it challenges me to trust that God is in control. I think when I was safely in my ignorance bubble, relying on God focused on things that were, in a way, in my hands. And I had to make an active effort of dumping them from my hands so as to trust God with them. But current events and elections are so far beyond my grasp, that my only reaction options are fear/worry or trust.

I have found immense value in taking off the blindfold to the world and keeping my eyes open to the reality of what’s going on around me. Shutting my eyes and ears to the outside world kept me in a safe bubble, yes, but where did God ask me to be safe? And answer me this, how can we see the world with God’s eyes, and love the world with God’s heart, if we don’t open either one of them? 

channel zero

3. Something that is part of your routine that you enjoy

Some time when I was in middle or high school, I stopped watching television. I realized that every time I sat down in front of the TV, I would eat. I would want something salty and crunchy and I would want to mindlessly munch while I zeroed in on the screen. So at some point I decided to cut off the bad habit by cutting off the source.

I didn’t miss it much, which some TV addicts might find surprising, but I was pretty busy with other things and my preferred activity post-school was reading anyway. (Not homework. Just fiction novels.) And if I did want to watch TV, my small bedroom TV had a DVD player in it, so I’d just pop in one of my seasons of Will and Grace and binge watch that for a while. (This was before Netflix and Hulu, so binge-watching was a little more hands on. You had to change the disc every 4 episodes… I know, it’s complicated and exhausting just thinking about.)

When I went to college not only did I not get a new TV, I didn’t even take my little one with me. I watched a lot of Hulu (before it was a paid subscription) or went to someone elses room and watched stuff if I wanted to. As a theater major at a liberal arts school, it’s not like I had a lot of time to devote to TV anyway. The same applied when I went to Highlands College. My first year I lived with a sweet family, and any TV watching was done with them or the occasional movie while babysitting. Netflix and Hulu, again, if I really wanted to zone out. And my second year, I shared an apartment with 5 other girls so how would I have watched cable even if I wanted to? If the TV was on, it was probably a movie, and between school, ministry interning, and two jobs, I usually didn’t devote my little free time to TV watching.

When I moved to Delaware, well you probably see where this going. No TV in my room, and I opted out of watching any cable and paying the cable bill. Now it was economical. Plus, I had Netflix and Hulu…. so… yeah. I guess you get my point.

So when I married someone who loves to watch TV and moved in with him, you can imagine the culture shock of suddenly having access to cable. Let’s just say I binge-watched HGTV like the newly married woman I was.. but less because of the ring and new last name and more because I hadn’t had cable in years! And we have On Demand! It’s pretty magical.

And most evenings, Allen and I eat dinner at the table or in front of the TV (I’m a table eater, he’s a couch/TV eater, so we compromise by doing both) and usually watch TV for the rest of our evening. But around 9:00p we turn off the TV and go to bed. Since he works at 11:30, he’ll sleep for an hour and a half or so, and I read for about an hour. Sometimes I journal. Sometimes we chat and catch up. Sometimes we snuggle, sometimes we don’t. This happens at least 5 or 6 nights of the week. Sometimes this various, but mostly it looks like that. But that’s it. That’s my favorite part of the routine. Turning off the TV. 

I like TV. I don’t love it. I love activities you do with people that inspire conversation and eye contact. To me, TV watching is a distant activity. It’s mindless. And that’s okay, because sometimes I need mindless. And sometimes I’m all ‘talked-out’ from my day, and I just want to zone out. But my favorite part is always when the screen goes off, and the apartment is quiet. I get my husband’s attention all to myself, and I get to pick up a book. Sleep is imminent at that point, and is there anything better than the prospect of a comfy pillow and a good night’s sleep?

“you’re never fully dressed without a smile.”

2. Thirty things that make you smile

  1. Hearing the door unlock after 7:00a because it means my husband is home.
  2. Opening the blinds and filling my apartment with sunshine.
  3. Organizing my bookcase and seeing the beautiful end result.
  4. Picking out a new book to read after finishing my last one.
  5. When my husband smiles out of the pure joy of getting to see me.
  6. When someone buys me a doughnut.
  7. When someone offers to brings me Starbucks or surprises me with it.
  8. Drinking Starbucks.
  9. Hearing the words “thank you”
  10. When someone holds the door for me.
  11. Presents.
  12. Looking at pictures of the day Allen proposed
  13. The first weekend in November in Delaware/PA when the fall colors are at their peak
  14. My mother’s witty comments
  15. Soft serve ice cream cones
  16. Satirical articles and videos mocking Donald J. Trump
  17. Coloring.
  18. Hot mug of coffee that I get to enjoy sitting at my table.
  19. When someone I love texts me and says, “Let’s hang out.”
  20. The Office / Parks and Rec / Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  21. A clean house/apartment
  22. This:
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  23. Proper use of sarcasm and wit.
  24. Finding a note that my husband wrote and hid for me to find as a surprise (i.e. lunch box note)
  25. Hearing the song I walked down the isle to.
  26. Knowing I can go to sleep and I do not have to set an alarm
  27. My own clever tweets
  28. When people comment on my social media posts
  29. When I’m having an amazing hair day
  30. The thought and reality of vacation/traveling.