The Beginnings

        I started this blog in early 2014 under the domain name “Aspiring to Adventure”. I was fresh out of college and in “the real-world” and I was having a rough time, apparently. I was grappling with a lot of life transition (as is to be expected when you’re 23-25) and I was feeling artsy and angsty (if early 20s angst is a thing). I didn’t want to remove my writings entirely from the site because I didn’t feel like it would be a truthful representation of where I started. So, if you would like, all of my Aspiring to Adventure blog posts are here for your reading pleasure. From 2014-2018.
Just please don’t roast me too much.

 


“You Give Them Something To Eat”, published January 30, 2018

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This past summer I went to Brussels, Belgium with a team from my church, Emergence, to partner with an organization called Serve the City during their Big Volunteer Week. The mission of Serve the City is right in the name. The organization serves the needy, elderly, homeless, refugee and asylum seekers in various cities in Europe through acts of kindness/volunteer projects.

During Big Volunteer Week we were split into groups every day that were assigned to different volunteer projects. Some of them were stereotypical volunteer work. Painting, heavy lifting, cleaning, ect. But some of them were relational projects. They were about just talking to people and making connections. Making sure that we were known as a loving resource of friends extending their hand. To provide a human connection to people who were regarded by the community as inhuman.

The very first project was a relational one. Our team took a “pop up picnic” with juice, crackers, puzzles, card games, nail polish, soccer balls and frisbees to Maximalian Park. When the surge of refugees flooded into Europe in 2015, Maiximalian Park is where the Belgian government set up tents receiving asylum seekers. Though those tents are no longer there, Maximalian Park still holds hundreds of homeless, elderly, refugees and asylum seekers.

I was mostly concerned about being able to communicate the invitation to our picnic, but then I was quickly reminded that it is common in Europe for a person to speak more than one language, and it was taken care of. We connected with a beautiful family and the guys bonded with some men over a game of soccer.

As we were leaving, one of the teens in our team was stopped by a family sitting at a park table. They were looking for someone who spoke Serbian, and turns out, this teen spoke Serbian (as well as 4 other languages). They needed help translating their medical documents and asylum applications (which were all in Dutch). He couldn’t speak Dutch, but another person on our team did and the two of them spent time with family translating the documents.

Of course, this wasn’t a quick and easy task. The medical documents were one thing but asylum applications? That was complicated. Everyone was understanding that our departure was being delayed.

But it didn’t take long before I became fidgety. We had already packed up everything, everyone we had been talking to had left, there wasn’t anything I could do. Feeling fidgety changed to frustration, to guilt, and back around again. At some point, I decided to pray and ask God to adjust my heart….which wasn’t as much about surrendering as much as it was I was tired of feeling guilty and I was bored. Very gently, I felt a tug of familiarity, with a whisper,

“You know this story.”

I started searching my mind. What story connected me to this situation? Eventually I realized it was the beginning of the story where Jesus fed over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and two fish. I didn’t remember the exact wording, but I knew it was something like the disciples coming to him, saying the people were hungry, and Jesus told them go feed them.

I took that simply as a correction and dwelt on my memory of the story the rest of our time in the park. Embarrassingly, I didn’t connect that moment to the bigger lesson that I learned in Brussels until  months later.

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That afternoon in the park was not my only moment of short-coming during my time in Brussels. I thought that I had come to Brussels with all of this education and absolutely no stereotypes in mind and no expectations but I was incredibly wrong. As I was corrected in prayer time and time again, I noticed that I wasn’t discouraged. I actually felt encouraged. A lot of that had to do with being able to look around and see people who were educated and working together towards social justice so I didn’t feel alone but empowered. But I think in truth, the main reason I didn’t felt discouraged is within that story I was reminded of in the park:

“Now…Jesus…withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”  And he said, “Bring them here to me.”  Matthew 14:13-18

For those of you who may not know the rest of the story, the disciples bring Jesus the 5 loaves and two fish and Jesus blesses the food, tells the people to be seated, and as it is distributed, it multiplies to the point where over 5,000 people were fed and full.

While the ending of the story is beautiful and was one of my favorites in Sunday School, today it’s the beginning that grabs me.

The disciples were often short-sighted when it came to Jesus. The Gospels are filled with stories like this where Jesus is doing is something and they tell Him to hurry along or ask Him a religious-minded, obvious, or dumb question. And granted, Jesus reprimands them. But you know what He doesn’t do?

He doesn’t tell them to leave.

He doesn’t disqualify them.

He definitely doesn’t say, “You obviously don’t get what we’re doing here, go away until you know everything.”

He doesn’t say, “You only have five loaves of bread and two fish? I won’t work with so little”

Even with the little that I know and in my moments of short-sightedness, I am not taken out of the race. I am corrected and challenged, but ultimately I am loved and instructed.

Tomorrow is the second month of the new year. As I continue to move forward with my aspirations, callings and goals for the new year, I often still find myself being short-sighted or frustrated with my resources (finances, time, education, ect). But in these moments….times like this week where honestly I’m bogged down by budgeting and how I’m going to get where I want to go and how little control I have over it….this lesson is everything to me. It encourages me to keep going.

The disciples were short-sighted, unprepared and said something stupid.

Jesus corrected them but didn’t turn them away.

Their solution to a huge problem was so, so, so small.

Jesus still said, “Bring them to me”

He does the same with me. He corrects, guides, instructs and loves me no matter my mistakes, problems, or lack of resources.

Because He is kind and slow to anger.

Jesus is so kind, you guys.

Faith, published October 22, 2017

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A few months ago I was leaving a tech rehearsal and my friend called to me across the parking lot, saying,

“Alicia! Can you explain something to me sometime?”

“What?”, I called back.

“What the hell is ‘God’s planning’?”

“……………….what?”

“My brother is marrying a Catholic woman and they have to go ‘God’s Planning’, whatever that is.”

Now, I thought it must be what non-Catholic Christians call “Premarital counseling”, but I wasn’t certain so I called back,

“I don’t know dude, I’m not Catholic!”

“You’re not?”

“No.”

“I thought you were raised Catholic and then chose it later on?”

“No dude, I’m a nondenominational Christian.”

“Oh. I assumed. I’m a dick. Sorry!”

That conversation gave me a good laugh for a few days but it also got me thinking; I don’t know how many of my friends know exactly what I believe or why I believe it. I mean, they know that I believe in God and Jesus and that I go to church and my faith is important to me, but they don’t really know anything else. So, I want to to change that. I want to publicly share my “faith journey”/”testimony”, whatever you want to call it. I want you, reader, to understand why I’m still loving Jesus.

 

So, first things first, I’m a Christian. People mean a lot of different things when they say that, so let me clarify what I mean. The foundation of my belief is often referred to as “The Gospel” or “Good news”. That even though we are broken and messed up people at our best, God loved us so deeply that He became a man to die on a cross as a sacrifice so that we wouldn’t have to right our own wrongs. Then He rose from the dead to give us hope, peace, and victory. The whole point is that we would not have to “be good enough” to be forgiven and accepted by Him, we only have to accept what He has already done for us. That’s a really, really simplified and possibly butchered view of my faith, I’m open to clarifying and discussing more and I am completely aware that what I just wrote sounds odd to say the least. Bear with me.

Okay, so I grew up in a Christian family down south. While Christianity is more of a cultural aspect to the south, in my home, Jesus was the focal point. My family’s approach to faith was more than “we go to church”. Everything came back to Jesus. Like……everything.

Why do we not lie?

Because we want to be like Jesus and Jesus did not lie.

Why are we kind to others?

Cause Jesus said to.

Why do we read Bible stories?

Jesus read Bible stories, He talked about them all the time.

Why do we serve the poor?

Cause Jesus said to.

Why-

You get it. Everything was about Jesus, even outside of church and family Bible reading. Jesus was part of my day to day life. And honestly, it was a good home to have that taught to me. My parents were loving and fun. For instance, my mom was (and is) a kick butt storyteller and made the Bible jump off the pages. It was incredible and accessible at the same time. My father was a strong leader who never shied away from a question, no matter how basic or complicated. They were on each other’s team, and while of course not perfect, really great parents. They worked for a Christian homeless shelter/rehabilitation center and they didn’t keep it from my siblings and I. I grew up around the homeless and I knew a life serving Jesus meant serving the poor (do you see the foundation of my social justice views forming?). I say all this to say, Jesus did not make my family less fun or interesting. Praying and talking about God was not a chore. It was just life and honestly, it was great.

I loved Jesus. He was so freaking cool. He preformed miracles and he WALKED ON WATER. I wasn’t even phased by the resurrection thing because of course he could rise from the dead…..HE WALKED ON WATER. He also really loved kids, according to one of my favorite stories. These families went to meet Jesus and the parents wanted Jesus to bless their children. He was surrounded by people and his disciples told the families that they needed to leave and Jesus had no time for them. Jesus disagreed, rebuked the disciples and said, “Let the little children come to me” and he blessed them. Which, looking back, I believe ultimately led me to decide for myself to believe in Jesus. I figured if He loved kids, he must love me. So when I was six I decided to believe in Jesus. I “prayed the sinners prayer”/”got saved”/”asked Jesus into my heart”/whatever you call it, I chose to love Jesus, on my own. I prayed a very simple, unguided prayer and was baptized the same year

From that point on I loved Jesus like children love anything; with simplicity. I really loved him. My faith and understanding of Jesus and the Bible was growing at a pretty normal pace throughout my childhood and into my preteen/early teen years. But (yeah, you all knew this was coming), my life and my view of God was shaken when I was thirteen and my dad was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor. All of a sudden my life was very scary.

Without getting into details the timeline marks were: 1.Diagnosis, 2. Surgery, 3. Recovery, 4. “Dad’s ok now”, 5. “Dad might not be ok.”, 6. Radiation, 7.Terminal diagnosis, 8. Chemo, 9. Passing. By the end I was 14 years old (a few months shy of 15). I know that my dad’s sickness was not as traumatic or drawn out as others. I’m very grateful that he didn’t have to suffer very long.

Obviously that’s not how I felt at 14. People would say, “Well, he’s no longer suffering” and 14 year old me would think, “Okay, but I would also like him to be alive and not suffering, is that so much to ask?”. I felt heartbroken, afraid, confused, and alone. I have a vivid memory of my home being full to the brim with family and I walked up to my mom and asked, “There are so many people here, so why do I feel so alone?” I was also deeply angry but I did very little to engage my anger. I engaged it briefly during grief counseling (my mom had our butts in there real quick, God bless her) but that was it. I buried my anger out of fear. Fear that being angry at God would piss Him off  somehow, fear that anger towards God would make me a bad Christian, and because for some reason I thought that I couldn’t be angry at God and still love Him, which I did. Point is, I didn’t deal with my anger.

I didn’t deal with it, that is, until my anger stated itself as a fact that I couldn’t ignore. See, what a lot of people don’t know about my story is that I lost my paternal grandfather six months after my dad and my maternal grandfather seven months after THAT. When my mom told me and my siblings of my maternal’s grandfather’s passing, a very simple and charged prayer popped into my head,

“You hate me.”

Maybe it was a little angsty, but I mean, a kid loses her dad and two grandfathers one right after the other and it’s not as angsty as it is just angry. I was shocked at my own prayer. I didn’t know that’s how I truly felt and now I couldn’t ignore it. I was inwardly panicking because I had never doubted God to that extreme before and I didn’t know what that meant for me. That night I finally journaled out my feelings in the form of a prayer. I found the journal a few years ago and yikes I said some atrocious things. “Do you have me on a schedule to torture me?” was quite a ballsy thing for a sixteen year old girl to accuse of the Almighty. I didn’t want to believe He hated me. Maybe I didn’t believe he hated me but I sure didn’t believe that He was on my side. I didn’t know what else to think. (It should be noted that this process was entirely internal or my mother would have hunkered down and worked through this with me. She had no idea)

To be super honest, I’m can’t entirely remember the fine details of the next day. I do remember sitting in church, and the sermon hit home. I don’t remember the details or any inspiring sayings. I do remember that it was about doubting God and while I was still hesitant and unsure of how God felt about me, I didn’t feel as shaky. I knew that He had heard me. That night I went to go see a Christian drama ministry called Splinter (which I was a part of later on in high school) which depicted the life of Jesus. While I felt that God had heard me, I finally felt that He responded when I heard, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” I decided that if He was really on my side, if He had heard me and responded then I would continue to believe and follow.

 

While this portion of my “faith journey” is deeply formative, it is not the end. That last story happened when I was 16 years old, do you really think I’ve gone 11 years with ease? It was not the last time where I had difficulty in my life that bled into my relationship with God. One of my favorite artists, Propaganda has a spoken word poem called “Forgive Me For Asking” where he says,

“Question. And this is embarrassing. You ever been scared that you don’t know what you’re talking about? Yeah, me too. Honestly perplexed. I’ve lied and so have you. Christians, lying. Like you never had questions. Like you’ve never had a moment where your inner dialogues were all of a sudden in third person like, ‘Are you really buying this?’ “

I have those moments. Sometimes they’re passing moments, like listening to “There is a Fountain” and thinking, “Man this is a gory and weird song, do you really celebrate this?” Sometimes it’s weeks or months of wondering if all these prayers are just me talking to the air. A few times it’s been over a year. 2006 was not the last time where I didn’t feel like God was on my side, or felt angry towards Him or that I doubted His love  Most people don’t know this so, boy is this fun to put out there; a few years ago I had been in such a long period of struggling to hear from God (like 2ish years) amidst a lot of hard losses that I flat-out told Him that I wasn’t sure I even believed He existed anymore. Again, ballsy thing to say to the Almighty. In that moment I felt such a tangible sense of peace. No words, no immediate solutions, just a sense that I wasn’t alone and a feeling of  a weight off my shoulders. I still had a long way to go but I felt, again, that He had heard me. And maybe more importantly, He wasn’t upset, shaken, or offended by my anger or my doubts. He hears my questions, frustrations, and outbursts, and He still just shows me love. Sometimes I’ve had Him respond to me more firmly but at no point has He made it out that I can’t ask any questions. I have often heard people say that they could never believe something they can’t question and I get it. But I can question. I question and heck, I challenge. He welcomes it and treats me with respect, firmness, gentleness and love, because He loves me so deeply that He would rather wrestle things out with me than let me fare for myself.

I can’t exactly find a way to end this blog post that doesn’t seem abrupt, and maybe that’s because my “faith journey” is my life so it feels weird to end it anywhere, really. My life with God is constantly growing and moving and wrestling and loving. I’ll just embrace it and do my best to wrap this up. So, that’s essentially why I continue to choose Jesus time and time again. Because no matter what has happened, no matter what I say or what I do, He really is “slow to anger and abounding in love”. He’s on my side and He is protecting me and speaking softly to me even when I don’t realize it.

Peace That Passeth All Understanding, published March 2, 2017

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I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot this year and as the anniversary of his passing approached, I haven’t had the easiest time. My mom thinks that this is due to me having a very transitional, and at times, very painful past year and that I had missed my dad’s presence more in those moments. I think she’s right. As I’ve thought about him this year, I’ve thought about his influence on my faith, as well as his own faith journey. Mom recently shared that “He wanted it to be remembered as someone who needed a Savior. He wanted it to be know that he was given hope and a second chance and he wanted to be remembered as forgiven.” In honor of that desire, below I have transcribed his testimony, which he wrote in 1980 at age 19 as a college writing assignment.

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“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7

As the apostle Paul writes in this passage, the relationship man and God through Christ is not which can be humanly comprehend. I can identify with such a statement, for my own Christian experience is not marked by easily expressed feelings. Nevertheless, there are still certain people, events and circumstances which led me to Christ.

The influence of Christianity on my childhood is embodied by my mother. Through a sometimes unstable family life, constant moving, and hard times financially, she always kept the faith and taught me to do the same. Our time served in the military probably hurt her growth as a believe, but she did hold onto these values. I was to appreciate her steadfastness only many years later.

My father’s position in the Air Force took our family to Taiwan when I was six years old. This was the first time that I was to see that the gospel of Christ was indeed meant for the whole world. I saw this principle in Louie, our houseboy. He was a precious person to the family. Even though, because he was an orphan, the society prevented him from marrying or advancing socially, Louie sincerely believed in Christ. His belief was based on little information, so he would ask me to tell him about Jesus. Crossing age and culture, we talked and learned. As I watched his faith grow day-by-day, I realized early in my life that Christ died for more than little, white, Baptist kids like me.

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The activity of a nearby missionary family was a good impression on me as well. These people were bringing their faith directly to the Chinese, living in their neighborhoods and speaking their language. My little mind was amazed that this clan, in the middle of a host of military families yearning to return home, were staying not because of orders but because they wanted to share God’s love with the island’s people. Again my latter conviction that Christian salvation is not just some Western ritual has its roots in these reflections.

After Taiwan, we returned home to live in Maryland. It seemed for the next three or four years that God was only a part of my life on the rare occasions that I went to church. The family’s spiritual life was nonexistent. I had no confrontation with religion again until sixth grade. It was at this time that some friends on my street asked me to play softball with their team. I had no idea that this was a church program, but soon found out. This brought me into Sunday School where I met persons like Bob Kelly and Joe Williams who were to set admirable examples of service to me.

My gradual involvement in the church led to my conversion that summer. In  a seasonal Bible school, I was, for the first time, to really wonder who God was and what He did. The pastor of the church led to my conversion that direction and stability. The pastor of the church explained to the children’s group one day the concept of two lives. One, shown by a straight and glowing candle, was a life that had  direction and stability. This was supposed to represent the Christian life. The other, as shown by a candle that stood crooked in its holder, with the wax dripping to the floor and the flame almost gone, was the life without God’s guidance. The mind of  a child could see the preacher’s point in two simple candles. I understood at that time that some choice would have to be made, so I chose to follow Christ as best I knew how. I came to Him in truth, an experience that I don’t question even today, regardless of my young age then.

For most Christians, the story of their coming to God might end here. I suppose that mine could stop here also, for I feel I didn’t “fall from grace” in the succeeding years. However, my relationship to the Lord faltered almost before it began. Soon after my conversion, I entered a junior high school which was widely regarded as a doormat of county schools.

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As my stay at this school dragged on, I am convinced that my mother and the meager attendance of church on my part kept me out of serious trouble. Thankfully other influences and the fact that I was too scared to do anything daring helped me to nominally do right. This situation, however, surely pulled me away from God. My attendance of church was spotty and undevoted, and scripture reading and prayer became almost nil. My growth as a person was being molded soley by the desires of self, while spiritual principles were fading quickly.

This drift that I felt going on inside reached its inevitable conclusion when I finally quit going to Sunday School and withdrew from almost all church fellowship. I went to just enough worship services to keep my mother from being alarmed. With my state of mind the, any advice or concern on her part was conceived as nagging, and I didn’t want to hear it. More important than my disaffection with church was the change in my ideals about God. He was becoming less and less a part of my daily thoughts.

As my spiritual life was diving, so were other aspects of my life. I lost my job, was now miserable in high school, and was generally growing despondent. This feeling hurt the most, for I couldn’t seem to care for people or treat them kindly. The only thing of which I was certain was that I was ashamed of the person I was becoming. At this point in time I put my life in the hands of God.

While essentially rejecting my own character to improve my situation, I turned to that one person to whom I had been so unfaithful, Jesus. After taking my life and giving it to him, it seemed that we had seen each other for so long but had never met. Even though our paths had crossed many times, it took an unsteady step of faith to finally know him. I can closely identify with Chuck Colson’s account of his feelings after conversion. His description of satisfaction derived from simple things and a totally new appreciation for people is much like the change I felt. The surprise that resulted from my decision was striking as well. In contemplating this step, I had never thought that such peace within myself might be the result. Truly, this movement in a person’s heart “passeth all understanding”

In further parallel with Colson, trying times were to follow. The positive aspects of being born again still outweighed the sacrifices. I knew the life with God and I knew life without God, so resulting troubles seemed insignificant in comparison. An expansion of my faith followed as I found my sensitivity to people’s concerns deepening. An effort to know Jesus more personally and become aware of His global work took place. Gradually, Christ was changing my desires and redirecting my frustrated energies into the things of God. Instead of drudgery, church activities were meaningful at last.

When I returned to school after the summer of my conversion, this formerly detested place became one where I was content. Soon I had another job also, this time at a Roy Rogers restaurant. Despite the derision from others about my being a “galley slave” working in a “grease joint” and that fact that this wasn’t far from the truth, it was a useful experience. I learned that few people operate in day-to-day life without some great troubles and that I could actually help them. Here was a sobering fact about the change in my life, for a few short months before I was in need of a helping hand myself.

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My conviction, as noted earlier, that the Christian gospel is meant for humanity began to take shape now. Through memories, missions study and personal experiences I slowly gained an awareness of the work of God. This opened a whole new world to me.

Through the trials and questions that I had in being new born in Christ, there were events and friends who helped me to understand and grow in the faith. Older Christians were important, such as my Sunday School teacher, pastor and various teachers in high school. However, experience is an invaluable tool for forming commitment, and when I began witnessing to others of the saving power of Christ, I was on my way in the difficulties process of discipleship.

Because of this next stage of development, my relationships with people became deeper and of more substance than I had ever thought possible. Every day of school would give me a chance to talk to someone about the gospel. At the job, I learned of the heartbreak of things like prison and divorce, for the fellow employees gave me the privilege of working through their problems with them. I had nothing to offer these people but my concern and sincerity, and God blessed my awkward efforts.

As I was growing spiritually stronger, encouragement was always present at the church. The example set by the adults already mentioned was a boost to my morale. Their pursuit of religious ideals steered me away from denominational dogmatism that I might have adopted. Although I didn’t appreciate the fact for years, the integrated nature of the church also prevented me from a narrow-minded view of the way Christ’s work is carried out.

Almost three years has passed since I gave my life to Jesus. It seems as if I have been a believe such longer because of the fullness that my life has been granted. I feel that I am being led by the Lord to some type of counseling work, which is the reason behind my interest in the education field. During the upcoming summer I will be serving in Atlanta, Georgia with an inner-city ministry. This should acquaint me with many persons of differing backgrounds and teach me to better relate to such people. Hopefully, God’s will for my life will become clearer because of this experience. At any rate, I am certain that, as He has raised me up in the past, His hand will remain outstretched throughout the rest of my days.

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He would meet my mother in Atlanta, Georgia that summer. He would also decide that summer that he was called to serve the poor. His view that “the gospel was meant for humanity” only grew stronger and it was a integrated into every aspect of my upbringing. I could talk for pages about all of the ways that he showed me the love of God and the ways he nurtured my relationship with Christ. One of the greatest gifts I have been given is my father. He is loved and missed.

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Year in (Book) Review(s), published January 7, 2017

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When I graduated college, it gave me many opportunities. An opportunity to live on my own, to work for a nonprofit, and to travel. It also gave me the opportunity to read for pleasure, and this is the opportunity that I probably experience the most. I’m so glad that my love for reading was not eaten alive by the stress of higher education. Anyway, I read A LOT this year. I feel like I read a lot more than it looks like I did, and while my To-Read List is still very, very long, but I would say that I’ve made a significant dent in that list. So instead of reviewing this year (which was crap, good riddance 2016), I thought I would do so through the lens of ALL the books I read this year. You can read it in its entirety or skim through it or only read the reviews of books that you’re interested, I don’t care.

Here. We. Go.

  • The World According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers with intro by Rogers
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • The Miracle Man by John Hendrix
  • Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin Manuel Miranda and
  • I’m Kidding…Seriously by Ellen Degeneres*
  • As You Wish by Carrie Ewes*
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child written by Jack Thorton and story by J.K.Rowling
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
  • The Haters by Jesse Andrews
  • Passion by Jeanette Winter
  • Jim Henson by Brian Jay Jones
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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The World According to Mister Rogers  ……. [Reading Length: 1 week]

Like so many children, I grew up with Mister Rogers. Children are still being taught by him via re-runs and Daniel Tiger. I wanted an easy read for the bus and I had been eyeing this book in the bargain section of B&N since I started working there. So during Employee Appreciation week I picked up a copy. I was not prepared for the emotions that came with this book. First of all, the preface is written by Mrs.Rogers and it’s so tender and loving and has these wonderful stories about him. The book is filled with quotes from Mister Rogers. I was not expecting them to be so pertinent to my life, but they were. I loved that in a way, he was still teaching me.

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Me and Earl and Dying Girl ……..[Reading Length: 1 month]

I. Loved. This. Book. I had to stop taking it on the bus with me because I would literally laugh out loud and people still look at you like you’re crazy if you laugh at a book. Before you think that I’m morbid because I laughed at a book about cancer, know that it wasn’t really about cancer. I mean….it is, but in the first chapter of the book, the protaganist describes a John Green-esque scene and says that his story is nothing like that. . It was really a coming of age book than it was anything else. I found it to be funny, engaging, and surprisingly optimistic.

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Emma ……. [Reading Length: 5 months….not because it’s hard but because it sucks and I hated it]

I read Pride and Prejudice about three years ago and I loved it. I thought, “Oh! I like Pride and Prejudice which means I must like Jane Austen!” Wrong. I was so wrong. Goodness, I hated this book. Emma is not likeable at all. All the characters are really shallow. The only likeable character had this plot twist at the end that was supposed to be all cute but is actually really creepy. The only good thing to come from this book was the movie Clueless.

Miracle Man …….[Reading Length: 5 Minutes]

I read a lot of children’s book this year (I WORKED AT BARNES AND NOBLE AND WAS ONE OF THE ONLY EMPLOYEES WHO WASN’T AFRAID OF THE KIDS DEPARTMENT LEAVE ME ALONE). I didn’t include them because it would be too many and that’s not really the point of this post.However, this children’s book stands out. Jesus is actually depicted as poor and nonwhite, do you know how RARE that is?? The illustrations were vibrant and incredibly creative. It was obvious that this book was a work of artistry and to be super honest, that’s refreshing in Christian circles. The paraphrases are poignant and truthful (Ex: “Did you think I would leave you?” CUE SOBS). It is one of the most creative, visually beautiful and truthful depictions of Jesus I have ever seen.There were times this year where I was having a hard time and I only had energy to sit on my bed and leaf through this book and it was beautiful.

Hamilton the Revolution ………[Reading Length: 1 month]

My gift of a sister gave me a copy of Hamilton: The Revolution for my birthday. As someone who has been listening to Hamilton non-stop (PUN INTENDED) for the past year, this was the perfect gift. The book features exclusive photos, interviews and essays. It also includes annotated lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda and they are insightful and HILARIOUS. My favorite annotation is to Burr’s line, “Can we agree that duels are dumb and immature?”, which read, “Burr actually did believe that duels were pointless until…ya know, he didn’t”

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Seriously…I’m Kidding …….. [Reading/Listening Length: 1 Week]

I actually did some audio books this year and this was one of them. Don’t call foul! It’s still a book and I retained its information! I’m giving you a review, and now you can decide if you want to read it for yourself or not! Anyway, I bought this audio book for a drive to PA. It was lovely. It was just a whole book of Ellen being dorky and punny about her life and random things. It’s a great audio-book for a long drive or a nice beach read.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child …….[Reading Length: 2 days]

Unpopular opinion: I really liked this book. I devoured it.

However, I

A)Read Harry Potter as an adult

and

B)Did not expect this to be like the original novels. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my expectations were not crazy high. I was looking forward to it, but I wasn’t like….bouncing off the walls about it. Essentially, it felt like a long Pottermore story. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Pottermore updates/stories….and ya know….maybe that’s why I enjoyed The Cursed Child.

Also Scorpius is ADORABLE. MY BABY.

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The Passion ……. [Reading Length: 1 month]

You know those Blind Date With a Book things that you see on social media? They exist!! Some bookstores actually do them! I picked up a Blind Date with a book while in Asheville, NC this year. I was intrigued by the descriptions, “Ephemeral”, “Quirky”, and “A book to revel in”. It was a blend of historical fiction and folklore. The story is set during the time of Napoleon and follows a young army cook and a fisherman’s daughter. It was moving at a normal historical fiction feel and then out of nowhere there’s all this magic and folklore and poetry and it’s really surprising. It wasn’t something I would normally read, but it was interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it, which is a rare treat. I didn’t devour it and I wasn’t in love with it, but I did enjoy it overall.

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The Haters ……..[Reading Length: 1 month]

I didn’t hate this book, but it wasn’t my favorite. About 1/3 of the way through the book it got a really angsty vibe and that’s not what I expect from Jesse Andrews. It went from being a realistic, awkward, funny, transparent story to being far-fetched, angsty, amusing and formulaic. The very last two chapters went back to the original tone of the book, but in its entirety the tone was not consistent. While I didn’t hate this book, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

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The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo ……..[Reading Length: 2-3 days]

This was my very last employee purchase at B&N. Close a chapter, open a new one! (Get it? *crickets*) While Schumer’s book was very funny (as I expected it would be), it was also incredibly honest and transparent. Yes, she does make jokes about sex, teen drama and life on the road but she also talks about her father’s battle with MS, family dysfunction, insecurities and some very personal stories that I’m really impressed she published. It was an enjoyable and commendable read.

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As You Wish …….[Reading/Listening Length: 2-3 weeks]

This was yet another audio book. Come on guys, it was read by Cary Elwes and almost all the interviews were voiced by the interviewee! It was great. I had no idea that The Princess Bride was such a passion project. Not just for William Goldman (who wrote both the orignial book AND the movie script) but by Rob Reiner (the director), Cary Elwes (Wesley) and so many others. I also wasn’t aware that The Princess Bride screenplay was something of an untouchable legend/quandary in the film industry. I learned a lot about one of my favorite films and it was just really encouraging to hear such uplifting stories about such a passionate creative project.

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Jim Henson: The Biography ……….[Reading Length: 2.5 months]

Speaking of books about creativity, let’s talk about JIM HENSON. Like so many people, I grew up with Sesame Street and the Muppets. So when I was still working at B&N and I saw it on the Buy 2-Get the 3rd Free table, you know I scooped it up. It’s been a long time since I read a real biography so while I was excited, I was a tad nervous. The book was LONG. It is not for the weak hearted. The paperback is at roughly 400 pages, and when it was originally released in hardcover it was roughly 600. So, while you have to be prepared for a LONG commitment, it is SO worth it. While incredibly detailed, it isn’t meticulous. It’s humorous and encouraging. Be prepared for nostalgia, encouragement and lots of laughs!

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A Christmas Carol ……[Reading Length: 2 days]

I re-read this every year at Christmas. It was a personal tradition that I started in 2012. So this is actually my 4th time reading it. I have a paperback version that is highlighted and underlined that I love to carry around in my purse but this year I bought myself a pretty one (see above). The picture doesn’t do it justice, it’s shiny and gold and festive and UGH I just love it. This is actually my favorite book. I love it’s structure, truth-telling, call to social justice, festiveness and redemption.

I still feel like I read A LOT more this year than it looks like I did. That’s probably because I bought A LOT of books when I worked at B&N. Anyway, I’m still proud of the amount I read this year! If you want a more detailed review of any of these titles, feel free to comment!

I have a lot of great books on my To-Read list for 2017. I have Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bridge of Spies by Giles Whittell, Live From New York by James A. Miller and Tom Shales (from my late father’s personal library), March Books 1-3 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and Nate Powel, Sick in the Head by Jud Apatow and goodness knows what else I bought or received or was recommended.

To 2017! May it be a year of good reading!

 

Season: published December 28, 2016

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I told my friend recently that I feel like I spent all of 2016 in transition.

Employed to let go. Single to building a relationship. Job hunting to full-time employment. Living at home to moving out. Building a relationship to in a relationship. Full-time employment to part-time employment. Moving out to staying at home. No work friends to many work friends. In a relationship to single. Spiritual desert to oasis. Job hunting to interviewing. Single to rebuilding. Box office associate to swing house manager. Actor to stage manager. Rebuilding to single. No church community to church family. Part-time employment to living wage. Living at home to moving out. Faded friendships to revitalized friendships.

So here’s where I’ve landed at the tail-end of 2016. I work three jobs, but due to one job paying handsomly, I make a living wage. Or at least a livable overall income. I live in an apartment with two other women from my church. I’m single. I’m involved at my church. I do community theatre in my spare time. I’m working out. I’m trying to be a more active and informed American citizen. My family only lives 30 minutes away so I get to see them often. I’m in a good place.

However, it’s not easy to remember or feel like I’m in a good place. It IS easy to think about all the little ways my life could be improved. Like maybe instead of working three jobs I could work one full-time job. I would rather be in a relationship than be single. I could be having more crazy 20-something adventures overseas. I could lose 5 more pounds or be able to lift 10 more pounds or be able to run 10 more miles.

But I’m learning to be content in the season I’m in. At church a few months ago, they did a sermon on Rachel and Leah and the envy that they had for what the other had. One of the points that really got me was that envy blinded them to the blessings of God. My life has so many blessings.

Yes, I work three jobs but I finally found jobs that provide me time during the day AND evening. I work three jobs but I work in fields I’m passionate about.

Yes, I’m single but that provides me more time to devote to my family, roommates, dreams and goals.

Yes, I could be having more typical 20-something abroad adventures but I know I will travel again.

Yes, I could always lose or lift or run more but I’m really healthy and I feel really good about my body and its abilities.

I’m learning a lot about contentedness. It was hard to recognize the lesson amidst all the transition, but God broke through and here I am. I don’t know how long this season will last, but at the moment, I’m not rushing or pushing for the next season. When it’s time for the next season, things will change. I’m content.

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Shadows, published December 18, 2016

This is a piece I’ve been working on since late 2013. At that point in my life I felt exceptionally low. Like all of us, I have dealt with a lot of highs and lows in the last few years. I’ve dealt with hurt, lack of clarity, fractured relationships, missed opportunities, and loss . For the past few years at  Christmastime when I revisit A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Past reminds me of my own struggles with healing and grappling with the Holy Ghost. More specifically, I have been realizing how much the Ghost of Christmas Past resonates with the healing of the wounded heart. I am sharing this piece because I need to remind myself of the truths I found in the text….and maybe you do too.

Merry Christmas.

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The more he thought, the more perplexed he was; and the more he endeavoured not to think… Every time he resolved within himself, after mature inquiry, that it was all a dream, his mind flew back, like a strong spring released, to its first position, and presented the same problem to be worked all through, “Was it a dream or not?”

Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand…, (he) found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them…

“Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Scrooge.

“I am!”

I expected the Spirit to arrive. I was always told that he would arrive in times of trouble. But did I really believe? I don’t know.

He then made bold to inquire what business brought him there. “Your welfare!” said the Ghost. Scrooge expressed himself as much obliged, but could not help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end. The Spirit must have heard him thinking, for it said immediately: “Your reclamation then. Take heed!”

I believe that I know what is best for me. These wounds are mine, I know how to treat them. I can be left alone to tend to my hurt. But immediately The Spirit tugs at me, reminding me that this is not my burden to bear, and that I am in need of help. I hesitantly take heed.

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten… Why was he rejoiced beyond all bounds to see them! Why did his cold eye glisten, and his heart leap up as they went past! Why was he filled with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry Christmas as they parted at cross-roads and bye-ways, for their several homes!…During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation. 

Reflecting on the times that I most associate with my hurt, I can acknowledge that it is not all bad. Some of my most painful memories come alongside other memories of laughter, excitement and comfort. There was always some light.

“My time grows short,” observed the Spirit. “Quick!” ….

“Spirit!” said Scrooge, “show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?”

“One shadow more!” exclaimed the Ghost.

“No more!” cried Scrooge. “No more. I don’t wish to see it. Show me no more!”

But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms, and forced him to observe what happened next….

And now Scrooge looked on more attentively than ever… his sight grew very dim indeed.

But again, I face my hurt. I know deep down that I must face my pain. But I don’t want to. Can you blame me?  The vivid memories of my stomach twisting and dropping, of sobbing, of numbness, of uncertainty. It all happened and it all hurt. It still hurts.

 “Spirit”, said Scrooge, “remove me from this place.”

“I told you, these were the shadows of things that have been. That they are what they are, do not blame me!”

Why must I face this again? Why must I be reminded of the pain? I was told my entire life that God was in control. So, how am I not supposed to blame him for my hurt??

“Leave me! Take me back! Haunt me no longer!” …

Scrooge observed that its light was burning high and bright, and dimly connecting that with its influence over him, he seized the extinguisher-cap, and by a sudden action pressed it down upon its head. The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form…

I recoil. I fight back. I lash out at the Spirit. I ask “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” but I do not give Him anytime to respond…nor do I really want Him to. I knew I should have dealt with my wounds myself. Right? I was right….right?

but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light, which streamed from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground…He was conscious of being. exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness… before he sank into a heavy sleep.  Awaking … Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One….he put them (the bed curtains) every one aside with his own hands; and lying down again, established a sharp look-out all round the bed…Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; and, consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling. 

And in an instant, I feel desperately alone again. What am I to do?  Much like Scrooge, I am left in the dark, wondering what comes next, or if anything will ever happen again. Will I be visited by The Spirit? Will I be given more chances at my reclamation? Did I finally push away The Spirit for good?

All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the clock proclaimed the hour; and which, being only light, was more alarming than a dozen ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it meant, or would be at… At last, however, he began to think…that the source and secret of this ghostly light might be in the adjoining room, from whence, on further tracing it, it seemed to shine. This idea taking full possession of his mind, he got up softly and shuffled in his slippers to the door.

Time and time again the light reappears. No matter how much I recoil from the pain, or lash out in anger, the light always reappears. The Spirit always arrives again. I approach the light hesitantly.

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost-“come in! and know me better man!”

Despite any uncertainty,confusion and pain I have faced in my life, this one thing I know to be true:

The light returns, and I do know Him better man.

 

November 9, 2016 , published November 9,2016

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For the last two days, I’ve heard a lot of Christians saying that no matter the outcome of the election that Jesus is in control and it is all in God’s plan. I do believe this, and with this trust in Jesus comes a peace that I can’t necessarily explain. I’m not despairing. But that doesn’t mean that my stomach didn’t twist and sink this morning. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t had any tears. I’m in shock and there are a lot of thoughts swarming in my mind. I wasn’t going to talk about who I voted for. To an extent, I still will not disclose the candidate that I voted for. However, I want to make it clear that I did not vote for Trump. Nevertheless, he is going to be the next President of the United States and I need to speak some truth today.

There are many things about the next four years that are unknown. Maybe we will see the effects of his presidency immediately. Maybe we will have to fight time and time and time again for the next four years. Maybe his legislation will be stalled by a senate that (while predominately Republican) are not thrilled with Trump. Mabe Trump’s supporters will push for more change than Trump. Maybe we will not see the effects of his presidency for decades. There’s not much we can know for sure. In those moments, it is important to speak truth.

These few things I know to be true:

Mercy triumphs over judgement.

In the case that Trump follows through with his policies and ideologies, I am ready to tie back my hair, roll up my sleeves and put my faith into action. I will protest, I will serve, I will call my representatives, I will be an active citizen who fights for her beliefs.

Mercy triumphs over judgement.

Our future is never ever known. Everyone is saying, “I don’t know what’s going to happen!” We have never known what’s going to happen. That’s the nature of the future. We can plan and speculate all we want but we know nothing. This is not new.

Mercy triumphs over judgement.

I am allowed to be upset. Having peace and faith in Jesus does not mean that I am not allowed to have an emotional response.

Mercy triumphs over judgement.

I have to pray for the President. That means Trump. That doesn’t mean I agree with him or endorse him in any way shape or fashion. But I will pray for him, as I am praying for the rest of the nation.

Mercy triumphs over judgement.

We have to live in peace. That doesn’t mean that we cannot stand up for our beliefs or let each other fall to the wayside. That’s actually the opposite of peace. Jesus said that “Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called children of God” and I want that blessing. I want it for those who disagree with me as well. Please, let’s make peace and work together.

Mercy. Triumphs. Over. Judgement. 

To those of you who are celebrating Trump’s candidacy, I am praying for him. I hope that you as his supporters hold him to a high standard and listen to him critically. I hope you listen and understand why there are people who are terrified of his presidency and I hope you do not take that lightly. I hope we can work and collaborate together in the next four years, despite our differences. I hope we can pray together and honestly listen to each other. I hope the next four years will be as constructive as this election cycle was divisive.

To those of you who are hurting over the results and are grappling with real fear, you are safe to come to me. I will talk to you on the phone and text you and sit with you and drink tea with you. Please know that you are more than welcome to attend church with me at Emergence in Totowa, NJ. You are welcome to come to Resting Place with me on Sunday and/or Monday nights. I know some of you are wrestling with the influence that Evangelical Christians had on the election and may not want to take me up on the offer to attend church and honestly, I understand. But especially because of the influence that Evangelical Christians had on the election, I want to reassure you that you are welcome. I know that may not sound believable right now, but please know that you are welcome in my places of worship.

Below you will find a list of songs, videos and Bible verses that I have found helpful today. God bless you.

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Tower of Babble, Godspell

Psalm 10

God Save the People, Godspell

James 2:12-13

Conan on the 2016 Election Results

History Has Its Eyes on You, Hamilton

Colbert Tries to Make Sense of This Election

John 14:26-31

Be Thou My Vision

Just Go On, published October 3, 2016

“We never stop, we keep on moving forwards, even if we don’t know what we’re moving towards. Sometimes the only way to go is to just go on.”

This song is a more recent addition to songs/quotes that help pull me through difficult times. The first time I heard it, I thought the song was going to be a joke. Sure, there were a few funny lines (“You could win a million bucks in the morning and then get rolled by a bunch of stinkin’ hobos”), but overall, the message of the song was sincere and heartwarming.

I am in a rough place of life right now. I was at work one morning and this song popped into my head. At first it was not at all welcome. I was already not succeeding in keeping myself together, and I didn’t need an emotional song playing in my head. I texted my friend Rebecca, in tears saying, “I have the Kimmy Schmidt “Just Go On” song stuck in my head and I can’t stop crying.” She wisely responded, “Nooooo! Try to change it to Pinot Noir instead!” This trick worked and I was able to push it out of my head for the day.

A couple of weeks later, the song re-emerged in my head. I was still having a rough time, but I wasn’t a wreck, and while the song made me feel sad, I realized the lyrics were unexpectedly comforting me. I don’t have a lot of direction, or energy, or optimism right now. Uncertainty seems like a massive road block to me. While this song played in my head, I was reminded that it’s not as big of a road block as I think it is. I was reminded that yes, change hurts and we don’t always have clarity or direction, but instead of stopping dead in our tracks, we have to walk into the unknown and grapple with the uncertainty.

Sometimes the only way to go, is to just go on.

Chapters in a History Book, published September 26, 2016

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When I was a kid, I had a very active imagination. I’m sure this isn’t truly a surprise to anyone who knows me, but for those who don’t, I had a vivid imagination. My imagination got a workout whenever we studied history in school. What was it like to hear Paul Revere ride through town? Would my family been a part of the Underground Railroad? Would my mother and I had been suffragettes? I loved that I could daydream fictional situations that could have really happened. I thought it would be so exciting to live in a historical moment in time. Time traveling to different periods in American history was one of my favorite daydreams. I never thought that I could actually be living in a historical moment in time. When I first realized that current events could be in history books (like 9/11), I thought, “If I had an American Girl book, this would be in it”

As I’ve grown older, I still have something like that thought from time to time. Only now that thought matured into realizing, “This will be in a history book”. When I was kid, imagining myself in the chapters of my history books, I always imagined that I would “definitely” respond to historical moments a certain way. Even as an adult, I want to believe that I would have thrown down and committed to fighting for certain causes or attending significant events. But I don’t know. There’s no way to know. I can imagine people in 20-30 years saying, “I would have TOTALLY found a way to go to the Inauguration of Barack Obama!” But I didn’t go to the Inauguration of the first African-American President because I was 18 years old, in school and had no financial means of getting there. Those simple logistics of life are not considered when we think we would have “definitely” done something in history.

I’m writing this because it seems like these “history book” moments have increased in the past year. Maybe because it’s an election year, or maybe it’s due to hearing a loud cry for social justice, or maybe it’s because I’m old enough to pay more attention and understand the significance of what’s happening in the world. Maybe it’s all of that and more. But whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about history lately. More accurately, I’ve been thinking about my role in history. I’ve been thinking about my response to the world around me and my responsibility to respond. My responsibility to respond may not look like what I imagined when I was a kid. It may just mean challenging problematic dialogue. It may just mean educating myself on all candidates so that I can vote responsibly. It may just mean listening to minority groups instead of arguing with them. Maybe sometimes it does mean taking time off to go to a rally or signing up for an organization that addresses social justice issues. But maybe that’s not always the norm. Whatever my role is, my responsibility is to respond to the world around me, not burrow away.

To quote the musical Hamilton, “History has its eyes on you.”

Worse, published June 24, 2016

“You sent for me, sir?”

“Yes Clarence. A man down on earth needs our help.”

“Splendid. Is he sick?”

“No, worse. He’s discouraged.”

I, like many others, grew up watching It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmastime. Despite the film being overplayed, it is one of my favorite films and one of my favorite (stereotypical) Christmas traditions. My father delivered a beautiful sermon on simple prayer based on George Bailey praying in a bar. When I would drive home from college for Christmas break, I would envision myself yelling, “MERRY CHRISTMAS YA OLD GRYPHON CAFE! MERRY CHRISTMAS MCCINNIS AUDITORIUM!” The cast of Our Town watched the movie together at one of our first meetings. The movie holds many good memories for me.

A few years ago I was watching the film during a particularly difficult time in my life. To understand how I was doing, know that I had sobbed for two hours after hearing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. It wasn’t a good time. Anyway, I was watching this movie and the opening scene stuck with me. St.Joseph converses with God about George Bailey and God suggests that an angel named Clarence assist George. When Clarence is told that a man is in need of help, he assumes it is illness. He is corrected, saying the man is discouraged.

I sat on the couch and those few lines deeply resonated with me. I was broken-hearted, directionless, and lonely. Despite having multiple people who were showing me support and care (one who was sitting on the couch next to me), I still felt very much alone. Some of that is because discouragement  comes along with a sense of inadequacy and debate. I know I am not the only one who thinks things like,

“I really shouldn’t complain”

“They don’t really want to know how  I’m doing”

“It’s all in my head”

“This isn’t as bad as so-and-so who is dealing with such-and-such.”

I know I can’t be the only one who has thought those things. I know that I can’t be the only one thinking those things right at this very moment. Discouragement is draining and frustrating. Add on the feeling that your discouragement is not big enough of a problem to be taken seriously, it’s lonely as well.

Hearing this quote gave me a sense of solidarity and encouragement. Solidarity because since “It’s a Wonderful Life” is such a famous movie, there must be people who resonate with that quote, which means I can’t be alone. Encouragement because while the conversation was fictional, it reminded me that God not only knows my struggles, he validates the pain, and He goes a step further to provide comfort and strength.

Essentially, I love this quote because it reminds me that:

I’m not alone in this.

Which means that:

You’re not alone in this.

Parks and Transiton, published June 5, 2016

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I love Parks and Recreation. I love it for its comedy, character development, optimism and relate-ability. I’ve recently realized another reason why I love Parks and Recreation. I love how it handles transition.

There are many episodes and characters who go through various relationship, career, familial and living changes. Those episodes and quotes have always seem to come when I need it to the most.

Chris

I watched this episode when I had just started trying to take up running and I was trying to jam pack my schedule. (Not so) coincidentally, I had gone through a nasty breakup a few months prior and was still recovering. This quote, humorous as it was, shed some light on how I was dealing with my emotions.

I remember having Parks and Rec playing on the TV as I prepped food for the kids I was nannying, feeling down about my love life, my career and the uncertainty of my future. I stopped what I was doing when I heard conversation resonated with me because I had noticed that when I wasn’t working or exercising I constantly had a screen in front of me. Again, this shed light on how I was dealing with my emotions.

I had gone out on a couple of dates with this very sweet man, but I hadn’t clicked with him since the first date. I didn’t know how to explain this to people but as nice as he was, I just didn’t want to go out with him again. I watched this episode and it helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in listening to my gut.

This is one of my all time favorite lines from Parks and Recreation. While Andy’s dilemma is caused by his own absentmindedness (and is resolved easily), the statement encompasses young adulthood so well. Sometimes I feel like I’m just playing around and not really working due to having two part time jobs. Other times I feel run into the ground due to working two part time jobs. I’m an adult with two part time jobs, hello.

There are so many life changes among the characters in Parks and Recreation. But I’ve realized the one character that has the most development with facing transition, and the most attention to that issue, and the one that I resonate the most with in times of transition is….

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Overachiever, Leslie Knope.

In the beginning of the show, Leslie is optimistic, dreams big and works hard, but she has a difficult time letting things go. She is hung up on a guy from a one night stand from seven years prior. Her house is a hoarder’s nest. Then, as the seasons progress, she gets better and better with dealing with change. She acknowledges that she has to work through break-ups, saying, “You know, I was only with Mark for one night and then I was hung up on him for six years. I dated Dave for three months so if I continue this pattern, I wont be over him for…five hundred years”  It gets to the point in her character development where she finds out she is pregnant with triplets and she stays totally calm, stating that, “…I realized something. Everything that we have been through, The Harvest Festival, the Election, the Recall, the merger, Ann leaving, Larry changing his name for some stupid reason, all of it has just been preparation for this.” But the thing I really love about Leslie Knope is that while she grows in her willingness to tackle change, she is never perfect in that endeavor.

She is recalled from city council and she says(as pictured above), “I’ve gone through the five stages of grief. Denial, anger, internet commenting, cat adoption, African dance, cat returning to the adoption place, watching all the episodes of Murphy Brown, and not giving a flying fart.” Then quickly decides to attempt to run for office again(which she is advised against and eventually concedes). Ann tells her that she is moving away and Leslie still grapples with that change through the final season, which leads to a 3 year long fight with Ron.

I love all of this about Leslie Knope because I get it. I also suck at transition and dealing with change. This is due to several factors. One, I legitimately have a processing disorder and while I’m generally high-functioning and it doesn’t bother me, sometimes it still gets in the way. Two, I’m a planner. Change throws off the plan and I DON’T LIKE IT. Three, I personally have struggled with spiritual insecurities involving my relationship with God and when I go through a big, difficult change, those insecurities are highlighted. The point is, change and transition are exceptionally difficult for me.

For instance, I was in a contract position with a theatre company in NYC and in February they were not able to renew my contract. Instead of moping and freaking out about my future, I set to work and job hunted. I was certainly disappointed, but I wasn’t freaked out about the job loss. This was such a far cry from a few years prior and I was really happy to see growth. “Finally!”, I thought to myself, “I think I can handle when things change. Good thing too, I did choose a career in the arts”. That conception of myself was challenged in early May.

In the interest of not burning any personal or professional bridges I won’t get into exactly what happened to me in early May, but there were some very hard-hitting changes to my life that occurred in the span of a week. I took it all really hard. In the midst of all the other stuff I was dealing with, there was a part of me that was very frustrated by my response. I thought I had gotten better. I thought I had accepted that change is a part of life, especially for a twenty-five year old who wanted a career in the arts. I was not doing well.

I have comfort TV shows, and one of them is Parks and Recreation. Naturally after one of these hard-hitting changes, I was watching it with Grace, and in this particular episode Ann told Leslie she was moving. After Anne broke this news to Leslie, Leslie enters a meeting and declares, “I’m sorry I’m late, I was being ambushed by treachery!!”* Grace turned to me and said playfully, “Is that how you feel?” I laughed and said, “Yeah! Yeah it is!” I watched episode after episode from various seasons of Parks and Rec during my comfort-binge and that’s when I started to recognize Leslie’s up-and-down struggle with accepting change. It was oddly comforting.

Actually, it wasn’t odd at all. It was comforting to be reminded that you can accept that change is a part of a life, and still have a natural reaction to it. It was comforting to remember that I’m never going to be perfect at going through transition. Some transitions, (good or bad) will be easier than others. Others are going to be quite horrible. So while I may not (and probably never will) perfectly tackle change in my life, I have discovered the best ways to face it, much like Leslie.

I know that I need to process things slowly, and to not suppress my feelings. I know I need to take time to breathe. I have scriptures and prayers that speak truth into uncertainty. Friends and family provide support, insight, advice, hugs and love. Pick-me ups don’t help the long term but the occasional quick-fix for a blue mood isn’t something to look down on. Crying is acceptable. Endorphins are my friend. Every day is a new day.

I know that none of this is groundbreaking or new information. But sometimes I forget. Sometimes I need to remind myself how to face change. So I’m reminding myself now.

I will be Okay.

I will get through these changes.

In the words of Leslie Knope,

“In times of stress or moments of transition, it can feel like the whole world is closing in around you. When that happens, close your eyes, take a deep breath, listen to the people who love you when they give you advice and remember what really matters. And if you have the ability to go to Paris, by all means, go to Paris.”

Also, I may need to be talked out of flying to Europe. Help.

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NOTE: The two episodes that resonated the most with me during this time were “Second Chunce” (Season 6) and “Dopplegangers” (Season 6)

*Again, in the interest of not burning any bridges, let me clarify my identification with this quote(“I was busy being ambushed by treachery”). I did not feel like I had been betrayed, in the same way that Leslie was not betrayed. The changes that were presented to me were unexpected and bore a lot of weight, just like the changes that Leslie was facing. The feeling of “being ambushed by treachery” was due to unexpected (ambushed) difficult (treachery) changes.

Whole 30 Review, published May 21, 2016

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From April 13th-May 12th, I participated in the Whole 30 diet. In case you don’t know what this is, it’s essentially a Paleo, clean eating, detox diet. The creators want you to get irritants out of your body and to help you develop a healthier attitude about eating. I have a lot of stomach issues, so I wanted to try it to see if it would help anything. I completed the 30 days successfully and if this is something that interests you, here is a quick overview of my experience:

  • Scheduled better eating. I already knew that my haphazard work, creative, and personal schedule did not result in healthy eating habits. I wasn’t eating badly, but I opted to snack more than eat actual meals, ate (healthier) fast food, and sometimes I just didn’t eat dinner until 10:00pm when I got home to avoid paying for food. Due to the rules of the Whole3 0, I had to be aware of what I was putting in my body, which meant that I had to actually think ahead for my meals. I did snack, but because of the protein rule, I couldn’t lie to myself and say that snacks were enough. I think I have better eating habits now, and I’m pretty happy about it. So is my wallet.
  • Lost Weight. I lost 10 lbs on this thing. I think I lost more in inches, because, well, look at that photo! Those pants used to sit perfectly at my hips and now they’re in Goodwill. It made me pretty happy because while it was noticeable to some, it wasn’t an overwhelming amount of people who noticed my weight loss. Maybe it sounds weird that I’m happy that not everyone noticed, but it’s just because I felt like I lost a healthy amount of weight and it reassures me that I was at a healthy weight before starting the Whole 30.
  • New Favorites. I have new favorite foods! I really love frozen berries, grilled chicken with spinach, grilled potatoes and pesto, burgers with sweet potato “buns”, and pico de gallo burgers. So good! I actually grew to like coconut/almond milk in my coffee, and I may make that my default coffee choice (with one sweetner packet). I’m pretty happy with my new discoveries.Whole30.2
  • Didn’t Help Skin. I was really hoping that eating better would help some of my skin issues self-correct. I have eczema and I have puffy skin under my eyes. I wasn’t expecting anything crazy, just to not have to drench myself in coconut oil and aloe after a shower and that some of the puffiness under my eyes would go away. Part of me is annoyed that nothing changed, another part of me is relieved to know that my minor skin issues are not the result of me being a lazy, unhealthy American.
  • Helped My Period. Yes, I’m talking about THAT. Look, I’m not going to get into details, so chill out, but my period was not hell on earth like it has been for the past two years. It wasn’t SO great that I don’t need to go to the doctor for medication, but if that medication has bad side effects, it’s nice to know that eating better will help me out. Even on the meds, I plan on making it a habit of eating clean the week before and the week of my period.
  • Way too much dairy. The first thing I introduced was dairy. Man, I missed dairy. I had the same amount of dairy as I used to have and my stomach was not a fan. It wasn’t horrible or anything, just pretty uncomfortable. It would eventually wear off, but I like eating and not feeling bloated and uncomfortable, so, I’ve limited my dairy intake to cream in my coffee. Other than that, I’m going to try to avoid dairy.Whole30
  • Sweet is REALLY sweet. I added artificial sweetner to my coffee and MAN was it strong. I have now cut down my sweetner in coffee, but I’m honestly pretty happy just with cream.
  • Nitrates SUCK. People used to tell me, “You know how bad hot dogs are for you, right?” I knew, I just didn’t care. I’ve had hot dogs since getting off the Whole 30 and my body feels like CRAP immediately afterwards. I became nauseous right after I finished eating the hot dogs. So bye-bye nitrates.
  • Not as interested in food. Aside from planning my meals in order to make healthier choices, I don’t really think about food all that much. I still enjoy food and I like to eat but I think about it a lot less. I think that’s healthy and I’m happy with that change.
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So, with all of that said, I’m pretty pleased with The Whole 30. I do not feel like every person needs to follow it to the letter, but generally I think it has some good instructions in eating better. That’s my review. Ta-da!

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#CreativeSprint, published May 15, 2016

Those who follow me on Instagram already know that for the month of April I participated in a Creative Sprint. For 30 days I received a creative prompt per day to exercise my creative mind and sharpen my instincts. I was really excited about it and it was really fun. I wanted to write about the experience so I was originally going to write a post using all my journal entries but that would be really long and….well, I’m not as good at journaling as I used to be. HOWEVER, the Creative Sprint team sent out writing reflections for the last few days of the sprint, and I think the answers encompassed the experience well. So, take a gander and if you are intrigued by what you read, join me in the next sprint!

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What was your favorite day of CreativeSprint and why?

My favorite day was Day 4. The prompt was, “Take a 5 minute walk with no set destination. Make something with whatever materials you can find where you’ve ended up. Leave it for someone to find but don’t forget to document first.” It was a rainy day and I did NOT want to go for a walk. I decided to take a walk around my house. The idea sounded silly but I did sign up for this thing, so I figured I needed to follow through with it. I started walking around my house and something unexpected happened. I snapped into an exercise from Actors Lab that I haven’t engaged in since…..I think since I graduated. We would walk the space. Hallen (our director) would tell us to explore the space, be creative, trust our instincts and “get into trouble”. Here I was, three years later, suddenly walking the edge of my bathtub and seeing how many corners I could fit into. It was so weird. It was also incredibly encouraging. I wound up downstairs and I wandered down there because we have these white Christmas lights that made the room of bookcases look really dreamy. I left a stack of spine poetry on one of the book cases. It was such a short moment but it meant a lot to me to know how quickly I could find the artist that Hallen helped me develop.

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Did you notice anything unusual or surprising about yourself or your work during Creative Sprint?

I was surprised by how my vision would change. I would come up with an idea and then realize it would either take too much time in my day or for some reason wouldn’t work exactly like I had planned. I was even more surprised when my vision would change and I would be happier with the updated outcome than my original idea. I wanted to trust my first instincts (and for a lot of them I did) but many of my updated, more informed instincts were pretty great too.

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How did Creative Sprint effect your day-to-day?

It gave me something to look forward to. Not that my life is dull or meaningless or anything, it was just fun aspect of my day. One of the first things I checked in the morning were the Creative Sprint emails. It kept me alert and sharp during the day. I actually made time for my creative work instead of waiting until I felt “inspired”.

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What did you try during Creative Sprint that was new or different for you?

I tried my hand at spine poetry on Day 4. It’s where you take books, turn the spine out and position them so they read as a poem. Mine read:

Profiles in courage

A time for action

The Choices we face

Promises to Keep

On My Own.

I mean………..it’s not great but it’s not horrible and I at least tried it! Poetry intimidates me in any sense and I’m really happy I actually gave it a try.

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Is there something you did during this month that you would like to try to do again or continue to do?

I think I would like to try to work with water again. It was a really cool prompt, but I had a lot going on that day and I just hit a lot of creative walls. I’m proud that I still did SOMETHING, but using water as a medium holds a lot of potential and I would like to try it again.

 

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What was your most challenging day and why?

The last two days were equally difficult. As things go, I had a really rough end of the month physically and emotionally and my schedule was jam packed on top of all of what was going on in my personal and professional life. There had not been many times where I felt the urgency of “you have one day to complete this task” but I did those last two days. And quite honestly, I did not use those days. I didn’t engage the urgency. I let it be. I caught up later. I really didn’t finish in the time allotted. But I did finish. I did finally catch up and create things and post them.

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What is one specific thing you learned during this Creative Sprint?

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I learned to accept and embrace when my vision changed. As I typed that, I understand that it has other life implications and that’s both really cool and tough to swallow.

To review my #CreativeSprint, you can follow me on IG @enchantedmissseldon and take a look at my 30 #CteativeSprint posts. Or, you can search the hashtag #CreativeSprint to see what other Sprinters created. 

 

 

Yay, May or Nay: published March 31, 2016

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So I’ve been doing the online dating thing for awhile but I cancelled my account*.

Please don’t wiggle your eyebrows and say with a coy tone, “OOOoooOOOoooo, why did you cancel your account?” That’s been my plan since January. I was going to finish up my subscription to eHarmony and then take a break before signing up for a different site. Relax. Geez.

I’ve seen many dating profiles. Like, a lot. eHarmony matches you with 7 people MINIMUM per day. That’s a lot of people to try to talk to. I’ve tried to be fair and go through all of my matches. When you go through 7-15 profiles a day, not all of them are winners. Which meant that I had a good amount of material when it came to talking about what kind of profiles I had seen and what I thought of them.

I find that online dating profiles is a fun and interesting topic. Before I signed up for online dating, I did a decent amount of research to see what was good to include in a profile and what was not. With about a year and half of online dating under my belt, I am throwing my hat into the Online Dating Profile Thoughts ring. In this post you will find three things that made me say Yay, May, or Nay to a match. If you’re considering making a profile, I hope this is helpful. If you just wanna know about my dating life, this really won’t tell you anything but hopefully it will be entertaining.

DISCLAIMER: I have only listed factors that I have seen in more than one profile. Because, obviously the guy who described himself as a mama’s boy got a huge pass, but I only saw that once.

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NAY.

Pictures with guns. 

Seeing a picture of a man with a gun does not make me feel protected, it does not make me think that he is a provider, it does not make me think that he is strong, it does not make think that he is sexy or manly. It just makes me uncomfortable and honestly, very nervous. This isn’t a gun rights thing. Look, people (especially women) risk a lot when they go on a date with a stranger. I have to be aware of who I’m going out with and I have to do everything in my power to stay and feel safe. Going on a date with a stranger who “loves to shoot” does not make me feel safe.

Assumptious

You would not believe the profiles I have seen that started with a guy writing a letter to the reader, making assumptions about who she is. The ones that made me gag the most were ones that began with something like, “When you were young, your parents read Cinderella and you dreamed of your own Prince” BARF. It never improved from that point.

Shirtless bathroom mirror selfies.

Look, I know that including a body shot in a profile is important. But you can do that with a shirt on, or upload a picture from the beach or the pool where it’s appropriate to be shirtless (still not my favorite). Whether the guy means to or not, shirtless bathroom mirror selfies sends a strong “DTF” vibe. That’s not what I’m looking for. I’m on eHarmony, not Tinder.

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MAY.

Describes self as sarcastic.

There is a fine line between sarcasm and being mean. The majority of guys that I’ve been on dates with that described themselves as sarcastic were really just jaded and rude. Sarcasm was simply a mask. However, I know the humor of a well-crafted sarcastic remark. It can be really funny. Maybe the guy also can execute sarcasm appropriately, and maybe that’s what he means when he describes himself as sarcastic. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. So it wasn’t an automatic dealbreaker, but if the guy didn’t have an interesting profile, I typically passed.

Posing with a fish.

This isn’t a dealbreaker, I just personally think it’s lame.

Posting a picture with following caption, “This picture is from a few years ago but I haven’t changed.”

Yeah, OK, dude. If that were true, you could have just left it there without the disclaimer.

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YAY.

Descriptive Profile

On eHarmony, the first question was “What are you most passionate about?” and I would say 60%-75% of guys just had a list (Ex: Family, Friends, Jesus, sports, and good food.) Now, most things on the list typically were good and I could see how one could be passionate about them. It wasn’t my favorite that they wrote it as a list, but as long as there were no red flags, I figured you could never really get to know someone util you actually talked to them anyway and would proceed. BUT, the guys who actually answered in multiple, grammatically correct sentences made me very happy. As long as there were no red flags, they got a yes.

Reads/Educated

I know that not all people like to read leisurely. I understand that everyone has a variety of gifts. I don’t believe that just because a guy hasn’t read A Tale of Two Cities it means he isn’t intelligent. But if a guy just wrote “I don’t read” that was incredibly annoying. It just sounds uneducated and unintelligent. So when a guy either listed what he read recently (and his thoughts) or wrote something like, “I don’t read a lot in my spare time but I like to keep up with current events and read studies pertaining to my line of work”, that was really cool to me. They got a yes.

Doesn’t Take Self too Seriously

I don’t understand the appeal of the mysterious, broody man. In film it’s one thing….but even then, the films I like that feature the mysterious, broody man includes character development where he is no longer that person by the end of the film. I’m all for a mature man, but a mature man can be lighthearted and silly and fun. So a guy who either made a silly, witty joke or two in his profile and/or included one funny picture got a yes.

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So those are my tips. Hopefully it was either somewhat helpful or interesting (or both)

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*OK, I have to write about this somewhere, because deleting my eharmony account was ridiculous.

So I went to delete my account, right? I click “Delete Account”.

A graphic came up of about 6-8 of my most recent matches. The pictures started to fall away, as if they were photos on a wall falling down. They fell away until there was one remaining, and (I’m not kidding), the picture DANGLED for about 7-10 full seconds and then fell away. Then this little disclaimer came up, “Are you sure? You won’t be able to see or communicate with any of your most recent matches.”

The two options were “Nevermind, I want my matches!” and “Delete my account”. I clicked “delete my account” hoping that this was over.

Nope.

No lie, a picture of a frowning pug came up with accompanying text, “We’re so sorry to see you go! You are welcome back at anytime” Then it came with two more options, “Sign Up and Log In” and “Exit”. I clicked “Exit”.

I can’t make this stuff up, it wasn’t over. A picture came up of the hands of a male and a female, holding a heart that said, “See you soon!”

Well, hopefully not!! Hopefully eHarmony users won’t have their account forever that’s the point of online dating!!

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“Use It”, published March 18, 2016

If you know me at all, you know that I spend a good chunk of my time with theatre. Whether that means reading, stage managing, auditioning, acting, working, or attending shows, theatre has been a relevant and consistent part of my life since highschool (11 years to be exact) It has been such a big part of my life that I’m quite often associated with theatre. I’m OK with this, mostly because I’m associated with my passion and because I’m confident in my identity outside of theatre.

Despite being involved in theatre so long, some people are still often confused by what I do and why I do it. I’ve had people assume that good theatre equals good effects and other people who have blatantly told me that what I do is stupid. Granted, most people are starting to understand that this is at least a serious interest/hobby. But people still don’t really know WHY.

So I decided I wanted to write about why I love theatre. It was remarkably difficult. I didn’t anticipate finding difficulty in writing about an art form that I love, but I did. Despite that, I believe I articulated the basic reasons why I love the live arts. Here you go:

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Stories

I love a good story. I always have. I remember being rivetted by Bible stories, my mom’s childhood on the farm, and fairytales. Even if you’re not a literary-minded person or you don’t necessarily enjoy the humanities and the arts, chances are you still like a good story. I love theatre because it engages the human facination with storytelling. Theatre takes living, breathing, physical people and places them right in front of an audience to tell a story. Good theatre isn’t show-stopping musical numbers, bright lights, crazy effects, or lavish costumes. You can have good theatre with all of those things, but those aspects alone do not make good theatre. Good theatre is ultimately about strong story-telling.

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Expression and Experience

Theatre and the live arts has given me a way to experience the world in different ways and to make sense of the ways I already experienced it. Because of my training, I am able to understand the importance of caring for my body, the power of breath, and the beauty of “going for broke”. Because of my time in theatre, I was given an outlet for my deep emotional experiences. I can “geek out” with people over stories, have passionate discussions about art and culture,

and I can use my emotions to empathize with the characters I play or the actors I work with. The way I express myself is encouraged and embraced in the live arts and it feeds into the way I experience the world around me.

People

I have thought about it recently and I believe one of the biggest reasons why I stay in theatre is for the people. I recently auditioned for a show and while I did not get a part, I was happy to spend time with my friends in the waiting room. It was so nice to see familiar faces and quickly connect with people I haven’t met before. Not all “theatre people” I meet stay in theatre. Some of them move to appreciator status and don’t really engage beyond that. But it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the live arts brought me to some of the dearest people in my life, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

So, why did I commute two hours a day to process donations for a theatre company? Why in the world would I sacrifice large chunks of my time to be in a show at a local community theatre and not get paid for it? Why do I spend my free time listening to Hamilton and reading plays?

Because I know the heart of my work is about supporting an art form that tells stories, creates an experience, and connects with people.

Are all stories perfect? NO.

Are all expressions and experiences positive? NO.

Are all people golden beams of light? NO.

I’m not delusional about the arts. I know the downsides, the frustrations, and the risks. But a wise teacher once told me to “use it”.

 

“Snippets 2015”, published January 12, 2016

Last year I wrote a blog called “Snippets”. It contained a 14 lines from a writing exercise I had been doing throughout 2014. I wanted to do the exercise again, but it didn’t happen. However, I did purchase a book called “642 Things to Write About” which contains fun and interesting writing prompts. So, I thought I would share 15 of my responses to the prompts from 2015


1. Write down 20 details of your neighborhood block:

(1) Cherry blossom trees all the way down the street. (2) A park at the end of the street. (3) Half is one town, the other half in a different town. (4) One home is pink, (5) another is home to a grouchy lady. (6) Therr are more than 40 vehicles in the street and driveways combined. (7) The sidewalks are perfect for biking. (8) A tree uprooted the sidewalk. (9) The new neighbors have two Dalmatians. (10) Another neighbor doesn’t grasp the idea of a shirt and pants in public. (11) Two kids next door. (12) Surprisngly quiet. (13) Big backyards. (14) There are so many puddles when it rains. (15) People that don’t live on our block like to walk their dogs here. (16) A few houses have Virgin Mary statues. (17) There are two dogs who bark like big dogs but they’re small. (18) I used to climb the tree in my front yard. (19) One lady always forgets to take down her “Happy Holidays” sign. (20) Cozy street.

2. The poorest you’ve ever been:

I came back from China&I had a bunch of yen but it was equivalent to like $30-$60. I had to empty out my apartment. I didn’t have a job. My parents had to help with my last rent payment because I literally had like $75 to my name. It sucked.

3. Describe a moment in which you were in physical pain:

(In all fairness, I wrote this in the beginning of 2016, but the event I wrote about happened in 2015 and it was within the year range of the original “Snippets”)

One second I was running, the next tumbling onto the hard, rough pavement. Runners thundered past me. I briefly pictured Simba in the stampede. My hands ached and stung. Three people gathered by me, “Are you OK?” I looked at my hands, just a few small scrapes. I nodded while looking down at my knees which also hurt. Blood was seeping out. I shook my head, “No, no, I’m not.”
4. What was the last thing you cared about that you misplaced? Write about what happened, with as many sentences as possible in the active voice:

I wore a very special necklace from a special teacher. I took it off. I put it in a small pocket of my purse. I forgot about it. I looked for it one day. I could not find it. I sorted through my jewelry. I shook out my clothes. I searched my jean pockets. I shuffled my knick-knacks. I gave up. I was sad. I cleaned out my purse. I found my necklace. I yelled. I put on the necklace.

5. Write down as many cliche’s and aphorisms as you can think of. Go back, and star the ones you actually say:

It is what it is.* When in Rome.* Try, try again. They’re in a better place. You get what you pay for. Take the road less traveled. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

6. Set your alarm for 3am, wake up, and write the first thing that comes to mind:


Just go back to bed write fast.

7. What does writer’s block feel like: 

Writers block feels like a decrease in energy. It’s like when you go to class, prepared for the day and the professor skips ahead two weeks and expects you to keep up. It feels like losing your keys in the grass. They’re distinct, you know what they are, but you can’t find them. It’s like you’re walking along and you get lost in fog. Writer’s block is knowing exactly what you want to say but your train of thought is derailed.

8. What can happen in a second:

A sigh. A text. Heartbreak. A kiss. Change. New life. Excitement.

9. The next sound you hear and what caused it:

Low hum. Space heater.

10. Write stage directions for an actor that insult him or her personally all along the way:

(Just to clarify, I based this on general theatre stereotypes and some general feelings during frustrating shows. I didn’t pick an actor I know in real life and vent. I’m not a mean director, I swear)

Alright, so let’s walk this, do you have the attention span? Great. Enter from upstage right, and use your “natural” energy. It annoys literally everyone but your character does too, so it fits. When she says, “What do you mean?”, cross her, just like you did to me. Then backtrack, like you try to do to me. Then you stay there until, “I need an answer,” move to down stage left…if it feels unnatural, just use your keen sense of superiority to move away from the person who dared challenge you. Then after her last line, just exit upstage left. Yeah, just leave.  You don’t want to be here, I don’t want you here, just exit.

11. Comfort:

A text. Acknowledgement. Gentle tone. Silence. Empathy. Honesty. Acceptance. Challenge. Love.

12. Explain to the historians of 2150 what it’s like to go to a shopping mall. Remember that they may not have malls in 2150. Or escalators, food court, or cash:

Historians of 2150: Greetings from the past! Thank-you for your passion for recreational activities in 2015, specifically “shopping malls”. Humans 12yrs-19yrs also share your interest in malls. Malls come in various forms and sizes. Shopping malls (unlike outlet malls) function within one large building. Inside there are restaraunts, vendors, and commercial chains. Some malls have movie theaters or outdoor pavillions. Most people come to the mall for purchasing goods, but many come just to “hang out”. Most malls have two floors of stores. You travel throught the mall on foot, and bu utilizing moving staircases (escalators). Goods are purchased with debit or credit cards or paper currency (cash). Malls are located all over America.

13. Your favorite film, book, quote and tree:

Singing in the Rain

A Christmas Carol

“Life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey. The good things don’t soften the bad things but vice vursa; the bad things dont spoil the good things or make them unimportant”

Apple tree.

14.  Imagine yourself at age eight. What would you tell yourself?:

Stop freaking out for one second about time travel being real. Now, you are going to love New Jersey, eventually. Don’t worry about the move. You will be lonely for a few months but then you will find friends, I promise.

15.What were you doing this time last year:

I was adjusting. I had been living at home again for a few months but I still had some adjusting to do. Figuring out my jobs, balancing life, accepting changed friendships. It was good for new, but hard.

—–

The great thing about there being a book with 642 things to write about is that there are a lot more prompts where that came from.

 

Possible Musings of Ben Wyatt, published October 21, 2015

A few months ago, my siblings were trying to figure out Parks and Recreation dopplegangers for our family members. They proudly told me that I was Ben Wyatt. At first I was reluctant to accept. I mean, Ben Wyatt was a fun character, but really, how much did I have in common with him?

Nerd.Ben.1 Nerd.Ben.2 Nerd.Ben.3 Nerd.Ben.4 Nerd.Ben.5 Nerd.Ben.6

Oh. Oh, like, a lot.

Everyone pretty much knows I’m a nerd, and this has been a pretty good year for me and the other Ben Wyatts of the world. I thought, for fun, I would write about some of my favorite nerd things from this year.

ANIMATION

Nerd Ben.Animation

TWO PIXAR MOVIES IN ONE YEAR

Pixar has not released an original film since Brave. Now, in 2015, they’ve released TWO original films. First was Inside Out. The casting was basically a comedy dream team. Everything about the voice casting was perfect. The message was incredible and the story line witty and insightful. And I’m not even ready to talk about “Take her to the moon for me”. As if that wasn’t enough, in a few weeks, The Good Dinosaur comes out. I’ve watched all the trailers and they’ve already made me super emotional. This has been a good year for Pixar, and I’m going to appreciate it for all its worth because there probably won’t be another original film for a few years. Not that I’m not excited for Finding Dory or anything….I just think Pixar needs to get back to original stories. Hopefully the success of both of these films will tell them just that.

FANTASY

Nerd Ben.Fantasy

HARRY POTTER IS IN MY ARTISTIC WORLD

The news of a Harry Potter play broke a few years ago. Most people speculated that it was about Harry Potter’s early years in the Dursely house, despite J.K. Rowling clarifying that it was not a prequel. Thank goodness, because the thought of sitting through two hours of Dursely selfishness and dysfunction makes me cringe. In the past week, it has been revealed that the new play(s), The Cursed Child are about Harry Potter and his son Albus. It’s the eighth installment guys. IT’S THE EIGHTH INSTALLMENT. And it’s a PLAY. A freaking play! A two-part play! This is right up my alley, you guys!!! I’m not just a nerd, I’m a theatre nerd!!

Some people are frustrated because not everyone can fly to London to see the play and the distribution of the story will be staggered. To an extent, I get it. Most people, myself included, can’t just hop on a plane to London to see a play. Plus, for many Potter fans, anxiously waiting for the new movie or book alongside other fans was what made the new stories so special. Maybe this is because I didn’t read Harry Potter until I had graduated college, but I say to keep an open mind. There are many forms of art and many ways to tell a story. Each medium brings a different aspect of story-telling and having a Harry Potter play is a new way to experience this narrative. So be patient, there will be ways to see the show or read the script eventually, it will just take time.

COMEDY

Nerd Ben.Muppets

THE MUPPETS ARE BACK ON TV. I REPEAT, THE MUPPETS ARE BACK ON TV.

I for one, am thrilled to have the Muppets on TV. I grew up with The Muppet films and I have the first season of the original Muppet Show on DVD. I wished I had been able to see The Muppet show when it was actually on television. Now, I can watch the Muppets on TV and I am enjoying it immensely. But not everyone has enjoyed it. The pilot received incredibly high ratings while the second episode dropped in ratings. Some of this was due to Mommy groups boycotting it because of the adult content and some of it was because viewers felt like it just wasn’t that good.

Mommy groups, I know that some of the Muppet characters orginiated on Sesame Street and their later films were definitely more geared towards children, but the Muppets are not new to adult content. There’s induendo all over the place. And while I know that The Muppets on ABC is less induendo and more spelled-out adult jokes, it’s still not that off the beaten path for the Muppets. As my aunt pointed out, the very first episode of The Muppet Show was titled “Sex and Violence”.

As for the drop in ratings…just because the Muppets have been around for decades doesn’t mean they’re immune to the bumpiness that is the first season of any TV show. Also, not everything the Muppets has done has been golden and classic. They’ve had their flops. But we love the characters and the jokes and the utter fun nonsense that is The Muppets, so we kept watching. With ABC recently ordering new episodes, I’m definitely going to keep watching.

SCI-FI

Nerd Ben.Star Wars

Star Wars: A New Hope. I mean-The Force Awakens.

When Disney originally purchased the Star Wars franchise a few years ago, I was confused. Why did they need the rights to Star Wars? To hype up Star Tours and the Park attractions? Then Disney announced that they were going to make a new Star Wars film with the original cast. I was annoyed. Could you blame me? The last time there was a new Star Wars film it  featured “Anakin, you’re breaking my heart”.  So, I wasn’t excited. I was very, very, very hesitant. Now, not so much.

I was really worried that the new film would rely entirely on CGI and nostalgia to pull in their audience. But then, a few really cool things were released. First of all, the very first teaser trailer was not flooded with aspects of the original films, just the Millennium Falcon…WHICH WAS AWESOME. But aside from that, it all looked incredible and was mostly entirely new, which gave me the hope that maybe the story was solid enough that it didn’t need to rely on nostalgia. Then there was the first full trailer which was not flooded with nostalgia but certainly picked a great nostalgic moment to be the center of the trailer (“Chewie, we’re home”). There was a behind the scenes video released that talked about how the film makers were using a mixture of CGI and PUPPETS!!!!! After that, everything has been golden. The next trailer was incredible, Force Fridays were a crazy success and the Star Wars Instagram is really cool. Basically, I’m really, really, really, REALLY excited for the new Star Wars. Even if the movie doesn’t live up to the hype, while I’ll be very disappointed, the hype has been really fun.

THEATRE

Ben.Theatre

Broadway is Booming

I do my best to keep up with what’s going on in theatre around the world, but in terms of accessibility, I keep up with Broadway the most. I’m at an advantage since it takes me under an hour to get to Broadway. So it’s fairly easy to keep up with. There are just so many good things on Broadway right now. For Gene Kelly fans like myself(serious swoon), An American in Paris and On the Town are on Broadway. For more classic musical theatre lovers, Fiddler on the Roof is currently in previews. George Takie, known for Star Trek, and loved by the internet is starring in a musical called Allegiance which is based on his life story and the Japanese Internment camps. Hunchback of Notre Dame played at Paper Mill Playhouse and while it’s sadly not going to Broadway, we are getting a cast recording. Hamilton is SOLD OUT for the next YEAR because it’s easily one of the most innovate, creative, well-made original musicals to date. Also it’s #1 on Billboard’s rap albums. A muscial theatre album is NUMBER ONE on a list of RAP albums. Basically, I love being so close to Broadway even if  my wallet is crying.

——————-

Well, if you didn’t know I was a nerd before, now you have a point of reference. Nerd on!

Nerd Ben.End

 

To the Passionate, published September 30, 2015

IMG_5782

In early July, I was visiting a friend of mine in Barnes and Noble. As I visited her, I clutched a blue, hardcover book to my chest. The book was “Go Set a Watchman” which I had been anxiously looking forward to for months. I was a somewhat literally anxious, considering that recent reviews of the novel had revealed that Atticus Finch was racist. This revelation was hard to process for a book-lover like myself, but it already had me speculating possible lessons that one could take from Atticus being racist.

I read the book within four days but I really could have read it in two. It was interesting, and while I hold the opinion that “Go Set a Watchman” is most interesting as a literary artifact, it did have a lesson that surprised me and resonated with me.

Upon seeing Atticus and Henry attend a Citizen Council meeting where a guest speaker says horrendous things against black people, Scout goes on a rampage. She confronts Aunt Alexandra, Uncle John, Henry, and finally Atticus with frevor, confusion, anger and accusations. As she is furiously packing up her things after cutting off ties with Atticus, Uncle John snaps her out of it*. As he speaks to her, he says, Um hum. [You’re] A bigot. Not a big one, just an ordinary turnip-sized bigot.”…”What does a bigot do when he meets someone who challenges his opinions? He doesn’t give. He stays rigid. Don’t even try to listen, just lashes out….You’ve no doubt heard some pretty offensive talk since you’ve been home, but instead of getting on your charger and blindly striking it down, you turned and ran. You said, in effect, ‘I don’t like the way these people do, so I have no time for them.’ You’de better take time for ’em now, honey, otherwise you’ll never grow.

This struck a cord with me, and I hope with many of Mockingbird’s fans. I believe that many of the people who resonate with “To Kill a Mockingbird” are people who are deeply passionate. The story is about injustice in racial relations, the narrator is fiery young girl, and wisdom is found in every chapter. Why wouldn’t this story attract passion? It should. However, I have found that many passionate people confused combating injustice with dismissal of people. To be frank, I have seen passionate people be rude, antagonistic, self-righteous, isolated, bitter, and cruel when they disagree with someone. My father used to say, “You can be totally right and still be in the wrong.” What he meant was that it doesn’t matter if someone has the worst, outdated opinion and you have the best, progressive opinion; if you treat the other person like garbage, you’ve done wrong. I think this message, that even the most passionate, fiery, compassionate people can be bigots is incredibly prevalent for fans of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

Hey

Of course this does not mean that we must should sit on our hands and do nothing. It merely means that we must acknowledge where other people and have grace with them. This message should actually not be unfamiliar to readers of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. In “To Kill a Mockingbird”, there is a famous scene where a mob sets out to lynch Tom Robinson and possible seriously injure or kill Atticus in the process. Scout disbands the mob merely by identifying one of the mob members and talking to him. The next day at breakfast, Scout and Jem talk to Atticus about the previous night’s events, ‘He might have hurt me a little,’ Atticus conceded, ‘but son, you’ll understand folks a little better when you’re older. A mob’s always made up of people, no matter what. Mr.Cunningham was part of a mob last night, but he was still a man. Every mob in every little Southern town is always made up of people you know…So it took an eight-year-old child to bring ’em to their senses, didn’t it?…That proves something-that a gang of wild animals can be stopped, simply because they’re still human.’

Do not misunderstand this section. Atticus was not defending Mr.Cunningham’s actions. What Mr.Cunningham was about to do was vile and wrong, which is why Atticus stood up to him. But Atticus does not dismiss the power that comes along with Scout’s individualized, innocent, nonviolent, grace-filled response towards Mr.Cunningham. While Mr.Cunningham does not change overnight, he changes his mind in that moment, and later argues with the jury about the innocence of Tom Robinson (causing them to stay out for longer than anticipated). There is some change with Mr.Cunningham, and it came from grace. We must give people grace.

At the end of “Go Set a Watchman” Scout sheepishly approaches Atticus:

‘Atticus,’ she said. ‘I’m-‘

‘You may be sorry, but I’m proud of you.’

She looked up and saw her father beaming at her.

‘What?’

‘I said I’m proud of you.’

‘I don’t understand you. I don’t understand men at all and I never will.’

‘Well, I certainly hoped a daughter of mine’d hold her ground for what she thinks is right-stand up to me first of all.’

The issue was not that Scout called out injustice and sin where she saw it, it was that she was more than ready to sacrifice her substantial relationships with little to no grace at all. Responding in grace and love does not mean that you have to be silent or that you cannot be passionate. We can stand up to the prejudiced, ignorant, and practitioners of injustice and still acknowledge them as individual human beings. And maybe by doing so, there will be change.

IMG_5783

*Uncle Jack “snaps” Scout out of her rampage by hitting her. I want to make it clear that I do not condone violence, especially towards women.*

Lessons from Mr.Finch, published July 12, 2015

Mockingbird

I love “To Kill a Mockingbird”. It is my third favorite book of all time, and my favorite piece of American literature. My Kindle case is designed to look like a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I have considered getting “Hey Mr.Cunningham” tattooed on my shoulder. I’m auditioning for a stage adaption of the novel. Even if I don’t get cast I look forward to playing out those characters and maybe speaking famous words of wisdom just for a little while. “To Kill a Mockingbird” was my father’s favorite film, and I often recognized him in the character of Atticus Finch.

So you’ll understand why my stomach twisted in knots when I passed a Buzzfeed article titled, “Atticus Finch is a Racist in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Sequel “. I was so surprised that I clicked on the article without thinking. Stupid Buzzfeed. I couldn’t even get through the article because I was about to cry. After I processed what I had managed to read, I thought, “Well, maybe it was just a troll. Yeah. Buzzfeed could go that low. Let me check.” So I googled “Go Set a Watchman” and much to my dismay, the top 3 leading articles had similar titles but were all from credited sources. I clicked on the New York Times and was deeply upset to find that Buzzfeed had not been trolling me. In the “new” book, Go Set a Watchman, the character of integrity who had made a lasting impression on thousands of readers, defended Jim Crow and spewed other words of hate.

I was shocked and deeply upset. My gut reaction was, “THAT’S NOT THE ATTICUS I KNOW. SCREW THE NEW BOOK” but then I stepped back and really thought about what To Kill a Mockingbird meant to me and how Go Set a Watchman could even coincide with the original novel. Despite the shock, I remembered that Harper Lee has earned my trust. I believe that Go Set a Watchman will provide valuable life lessons (aside from “be careful what you wish for”…), as did To Kill a Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird and Atticus Finch are very important to me, so I thought long and hard about what readers could glean from this new information. Here are some thoughts:

  Literary Insight

I recently read another review from the LA Times that offered interesting perspective, “It would be a mistake to read Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ as a sequel to her 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’….If I’m hesitant to level such a criticism, it’s because, although ‘Go Set a Watchman’ comes marketed as an autonomous novel, it is most interesting as a literary artifact.”

If this book is seen as a literary artifact as opposed to a accompaniment to “To Kill a Mockingbird”, I can get on board with that. Mostly because it means that I can keep my beloved character as I see him. But once I really started thinking about it, it doesn’t just make me more comfortable, it makes sense. Could “Go Set a Watchman” be viewed as a warning tale of what can happen if we never question ourselves? Could we see words from “To Kill a Mockingbird” in a different light? Will “Go Set a Watchman” provide scholars with new lenses to analyze this piece of literature? That could be interesting and beneficial….and I wouldn’t have to think about a racist Atticus anymore. But for now, I must.

It IS About Race

Many readers do not see To Kill a Mockingbird as a story about racial prejudice, but that is has become about racial prejudice. I strongly disagree, but I can at least understand where this viewpoint comes from. The trial is mentioned a few times in the first half of the book, but it is mostly dedicated to Boo Radley and small town life. It isn’t until the middle of the book that it becomes apparent that the trial of Tom Robinson will be exponentially important to the rest of the story. However, with the release of “Go Set a Watchman”, which was written before “To Kill a Mockingbird”, it seems even more clear that To Kill a Mockingbird is indeed about race. Maybe, in this way, “Go Set a Watchman” will strengthen “To Kill a Mockingbird”‘s story.

Racism Comes from the Unexpected

I recently re-read To Kill a Mockingbird to prepare for an audition and prepare for Go Set a Watchman. There were two lines which hit me so strongly that I had to put the book down in order to dwell on the statement. These lines are in reference to the rabid dog (Tim Johnson) that Scout and Jem spot and our beloved Atticus must face. Scout recalls, “I thought mad dogs foamed at the mouth, galloped, leaped, and lunged at throats, and I thought they did it in August. Had Tim Johnson behaved thus, I would have been less frightened.” Scout didn’t say that mad dogs who did foam at the mouth, gallop, leap and lunge at throats in August were less dangerous or not frightening. She said that because the dog did not act the way she anticipated, it frightened her.

When we (at least white people) think of racism, we tend to think of the worse-case examples. Men in white hoods, burning churches, the N-word, lynching, Jim Crow, blatant discrimination and verbalized disgust. These things are terrifying, sickening, and damaging to everyone involved. I have been disgusted, scared, and shocked at recent expressions of hate like this. However, the experience of hearing someone you know or love make statements that are either subvertly or blatantly racist can also be an incredibly upsetting, and disorienting experience. Why? Often because it does not seem consistent with their personhood. You expect more from them. You thought you were on the same page. You love them. You know that these viewpoints will only continue harmful racial narratives. You know that people will listen to their words and take them seriously. Are we not experiencing the same thing with Atticus? Racism isn’t always as obvious as we think it is.

No One is Immune to Prejudice

The morning after Scout basically disbands a mob set on lynching Tom Robinson (and anyone in their way), Scout and Jem discuss the event with their father.  “Atticus placed his fork beside his knife and pushed his plate aside. ‘Mr.Cunningham’s basically a good man,’ he said, ‘he just has his blind spots along with the rest of us.'”

This quote now carries new weight.  According to Go Set a Watchman, even Atticus Finch has a blind spot to prejudice. What are our blind spots? We often don’t see our own prejudice. I often hear people say things like, “No one is born racist” or “Racism is taught” and “Well, black people can be racist too.” While those things are true, there are some counter-points that are just as true. No one is born racist, but as much as we hate to admit it, we have the capacity for hate. Racism is taught but it is often a subconscious and systematic teaching. Black people can be racist too but that doesn’t justify your prejudice. We all have blind spots. The real question is, what are you going to do to avoid your blind spots taking over your vision?*

Go Set a Watchman

There’s more that can be said, but I’m going to wait until the book comes out. I already may have said too much for a book that I haven’t read yet. When I read it, I will make additions and changes to this post as needed. In the meantime, here are my ending thoughts:

Am I happy with this portrayal of Atticus? No.

Will famous words of integrity from “To Kill a Mockingbird” be disregarded? I hope not.

Do I still love the story of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and respect that portrayal of Atticus Finch? Yes.

Is the influence of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” meaningless? No. I really don’t think so. I’m not sure what “Go Set a Watchman” will change for the future, but I know that Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” inspired hundreds of people to pursue law, opened thousands of young people’s eyes to racial injustice, was respected by leaders of The Civil Rights Movement and spoke truth into times of uncertainty. Nothing will change that.

—————————-

*I’m not a fan of posing a question with no solution, so just for the record, I think the first steps to keeping ourselves in check are: education, prayer, dialouge, and analyzing social narrative.*

Seventy-Five Minutes: published June 27, 2015

I have worked at a daycare since I was seventeen. Different centers, cities, job titles, and consistency,but I have worked daycare for 8 years. So, naturally, when I needed a part-time gig to give me a little extra money, I went back to working daycare. There was an odd shift that needed to be filled; 4:30pm-6:30pm. I just needed a little money, I was almost burnt out due to some bad work experiences, so I decided that two hours was sufficient. I work with 3-year olds from 4:30pm-6pm and then I do aftercare in the baby room (1 yr and below). Sounds like a fairly easy gig, right?

Nothing is easy when it comes to childcare. Sure, there are some days that are all coloring, bubbles and giggles, but you have to understand that a day like that is not the norm. Despite this knowledge and experience, I am constantly dumbfounded by all that can happen within a short period of time. I had one of those days a few weeks ago. The amount of crap that happened was so ridiculous that I thought I would share. I don’t share this to bash daycare, because these incidents really could happen anywhere. I share this as a window into my life, and a reminder to thank your parents, babysitters, teachers and childcare givers because you have no idea what they have deal with.

*To respect privacy, all children will be referred to by an attribute*

9 Children. 4:30-4:45pm

At first, it was a normal day. I came in, sat on the rug with the head teacher while she told me the important events of the day. Afterwards I stacked chairs and swept the floor. Two kids (“Attention-Seeker” and “Sweetie”) were sent to the blue table for a time-out and I sat with them. A little boy (“Mischief”) ran to me crying because the head teacher had taken his toy for not listening. I’m a very consistent care-giver and I consistently support the other teachers openly. So why he thought that going to me would get his toy back is beyond me. Anyway, when time-out was over I told the kids to tell their teacher they were sorry and go play. A parent came to pick up her child. I greeted the parent and went over to the rug while the head teacher went to go talk to the parent. Everything was normal.

9 Children. 4:45pm-4:50pm

I started the clean-up process. The head teacher was talking with parent and took the parent’s child to the bathroom one more time. As we cleaned, a PT teacher from another room came in with the older sibling (“Big Sis”) of one my students (“Lil Sis”). The PT teacher explained that Big Sis had a little fever and it was too cold for her to play outside with her class. She wanted to know if it was OK if Big Sis sat in here with Lil Sis. We had enough teachers to be in ratio, and Big Sis was never any trouble, so we told her that of course she could stay with us for a little while. Big Sis went to the rug and even helped us clean up.

10 Children. 4:50pm-4:55pm

I started gathering kids to come to the rug (not all of them helped clean up and some had gotten distracted) to get ready to combine with the class next door (Pandas). Out of my peripheral vision, I saw Mischief fall down and immediately start crying loudly. The head teacher was closest and went over to pick him up. Suddenly a shock went through her body, she grabbed gloves, paper towels, and started pressing the towels against his head. I asked, “What happened?”

Frazzled she replied, “I don’t know, I think it’s really bad.”

I told the kids on the rug to wait a minute and I walked over to the head teacher to help her.

9 Children. 4:55pm-5pm

The head teacher turned and I saw that Mischief had blood all over his forehead. A shock went through my body as I grabbed gloves. I started gathering the typical boo-boo fixings, only to remember after each one that it’s not sufficient for a head wound. The parent who had been lingering awkwardly leaves with her child, cringing as she said, “Byyyye.”

BYE. The kids on the rug had sensed the urgency in the room and stayed frozen, watching us scramble to stop their friend’s head from bleeding. Great. I quickly said to them,”Guys, get big blocks.”

Attention-Seeker replied, “I want to go to Pandas!”

Astute loudly asked, “What’s wrong with Mischief?”

I replied as I frantically gathered more paper towels, “We’ll go to Pandas later. Mischief hurt his head. It’s going to be OK. Get big blocks.”

Unpredictable replied, “I don’t want big blocks, I want Pandas!”

That was enough. Time for stern voice.

“GET BIG BLOCKS, FRIENDS.”

Astute took the initiative and dumped the big blocks on the carpet.  The head teacher was trying to see the injury, get Mischief to tell her exactly what happened and switch the paper towels. She brought him over to me saying, “I think it’s deep, I have to call the office”

(or at least I think that’s what she said, there was so much anxiety and adrenaline that I’m not entirely sure).

I took Mischief and the paper towels. Not only was he screaming but he was squirming, so keeping the paper towels on his head was a challenge. I knelt down with him, and he scrambled off my lap, still screaming. I was struggling to keep the towels on his head and I asked him, “Mischief, do you want to sit in a chair?”

He replied, “YYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!!”

Okay, then. I put him in a chair so that I could have both hands to switch the paper towels.  I was able to do so and noticed that the blood flow had decreased. I lifted the paper towel ever so slightly and saw a small, circular shaped gash in his head. I covered it back up with a gasp. HE HAD A HOLE IN HIS HEAD. I know now that when it comes to head injuries it really could have been worse, but please keep in mind that I had never seen a head wound before. The head teacher got off the phone, I turned to her saying,”He has to go to the Emergency Room. It’s really bad.”

She nodded and mumbled something about taking him to the Office. I handed him off saying I would try to find where he hit his head and start the injury report. She took him out of the room.

8 Children. 5pm-5:10pm

The kids were playing on the rug. My mind was still racing. The only reason that I can cope with blood in the classroom is because my responsibilities as care-giver override my disgusted and frightened response to blood. So, with that responsibility now in the hands of the head teacher and director, I was ready to burst into tears.  I went over to the desk and took out an injury report form as I took deep, slow breaths. . As I began to fill it out,  Astute loudly asked me,

“Where did Mischief go?”

I replied, “To the office. He has to go to the hospital.”

“Why?”

“Because he hit his head. He’s going to be OK. The doctor will help.”

“Why did he hit his head?”

“Because he didn’t listen.”

All of a sudden I remembered that there’s probably blood somewhere from where he hit his head. I put down the injury report, and went over to where I thought I saw him fall. I looked around. Nothing. I got on my hands and knees, crawling around on the floor looking for blood and human tissue. Not blocks, or little toys or stickers, BLOOD. Because apparently, that was just the kind of day I was having. As I crawled around the teacher from the next room came over and said,

“Hey, we don’t have to combine today after all.”

Without thinking I replied, “Good, ’cause Mischief bashed his head.”

Her eyes got big and after I assured her he was going to be OK and I would tell her the story later, she went back to her room. For the life of me, I couldn’t find blood or human tissue. I figured the director, maintance or owners would come and maybe they could find it. The classroom phone rang and I answered. The director asked me if I was OK and how the kids were doing. With a shaky voice I told her that I and the kids were OK, that I was in ratio and they were playing nicely on the rug. She was relieved and I asked her how Mischief was doing. She said that he was doing OK, he had a bandage on his head and his mom was coming to pick him up. I asked if he was going to the hospital and she said that he was. I got off the phone and figured it was time to transition to a different activity.

8 Children. 5:10-5:15

I went over to the big rug and got everyone’s attention. I figured I should tell them what was going on, seeing as they had just seen their friend’s head bleeding and their teachers running around in a frenzy. ” OK, friends, Mischief is OK. He tripped and hit his head. He is going to the hospital with his mommy. The doctor will take care of him and he will be OK.”

Astute asked again, “Why did he hit his head?”

“Because he did not listen and was running inside. That’s why I tell you to not run inside.”

Baby Boy asked, “But why does he have to go to the doctor?”

I sighed and replied, “Because he got a big cut on his head. You know how Miss Alicia says, ‘Don’t do that or you may hit your head and have to go to the hospital?’ ”

“Yes.”

“That’s what happened.”

“Oh.”

I told them to clean up so we could “take votes” (time-killer that also determines our next activity). As they cleaned up, I sat down at the teacher desk and finished writing the injury report. I glanced up with every other word. I normally glance up as I write notes but understandably I was a little paranoid at that moment. Once I was done, I saw that Big Sis had started crying along with Little Sis. I went over to the two of them, concerned that I had scared them with my talk of the hospital. I asked, “Big Sis, why are you crying?” She wouldn’t answer, just cried, sniffled and wiped away her tears. I asked two or three more times with only sniffles as a reply. I turned to Little Sis, hoping to get an answer. I asked, “Little Sis, why are you crying?”

Through her tears, Little Sis replied, “I….want Big Sis….to be…HAPPY. *cries*”

Part of me felt affection, because that was really sweet.

The other part of me felt annoyance because I did not need that crap.

I rubbed her back, turned back to the Big Sis and after asking a few more questions, finally received a nod to “Do you just not feel good?”. I hugged her for a moment and got her to stop crying and sit down.

8 Children. 5:15-5:20

We took votes between little cars and stuffed animals. Little cars won the vote. As I got up to gather the little car toys, I saw that Big Sis was crying…yet again. I quickly set up the little cars without bringing attention to her. I then sat down next to her and asked again, “Big Sis, why are you crying?”

She whimpered, “I just wanna go home.”

OK, that was fair. She had a fever, was at the daycare later than normal and it had been a stressful afternoon.

“Big Sis, would you like to lay down and put your head on my lap?”

She nodded and layed down, putting her head on my lap. I stroked her hair and rubbed her back while speaking softly to her. I glanced up and saw Little Sis sitting with crossed legs, car in hand, lip quivering and tears quietly rolling down her face. I sighed.

“Little Sis, do you want to lay down here on my legs next to Big Sis?”

She nodded and put her head on my legs. So now I had two kids crying. Baby Boy came over and asked,

“Is she crying because she wants her mommy?”

“Yes”

“I want my mommy too!”

He then went into child’s pose OVER his cars (he’s very possessive) and started crying for his mom. Now I had three kids crying. Sweetie came over and while she never started crying, she sat in front of me next to Baby Boy, eyes brimming with tears and her bottom lip out. As they each would whimper, “I want my mommy” all I could think was, “I want MY MOMMY.”

8 Children. 5:20-5:30

Big Sis’ class came inside our room to pick her up. The PT teacher was very sympathetic to Big Sis as I explained why she was upset. The PT teacher coaxed her kindly to come upstairs with her class and she could lie down up there. Big Sis went to the PT teacher. Little Sis started BAWLING. Like, shaking with her sobs, because Big Sis was leaving and unhappy. Once again, I felt affection and annoyance. It had been a long day and I had an hour left.

YES, READERS, AN HOUR.

Thankfully, right at that moment, the mom of Big Sis and Little Sis came in. She wasn’t phased by the crying, hugged her kids, gathered their stuff and took them home. Thank goodness. I told the class to clean up. Sweetie approached me, asking for her after-care “snack” that somehow the mother was getting away with giving her. I told her to wait a little while. I helped the kids clean up. Astute asked me what we were going to do next. I told her we were going to do a CD storybook. She said, “I don’t want to do a CD story book.”

“Well, I’m sorry but we need to calm down.”

“We don’t need to calm down.”

“Miss Alicia needs to calm down.”

Yes, I actually verbalized that. Because, ya know what? If Miss Alicia needed to calm down, so did they. After we got everything cleaned up, we sat on the carpet.

6 Children. 5:30-5:35

Right after we sat down, New Kid’s mom came to pick him up. It was then that I realized when I am under stress, my voice apparently drops to a near whisper. The mom didn’t notice, took her son and left. After he left, we took a quick vote to decide which book to read. “The Pout-Pout Fish” won and I put the CD in the player. Sweetie randomly started insisting on getting her “snack”. As I was telling her that she had to wait, Baby Boy stood up and announced, “I was sad.”

I glanced at him as I said, “I know, but you’re OK now.”

Clear as day, he said, “No, I was sad, so I peed my pants.”

Sure enough, his pants were wet. I was back at the brink of tears. I put my head in my hand as they all started chiming,

“I peed.”

“I want Pout-Pout Fish”

“I want my snack”

“When do we do aftercare?”

Ya know what sucks? Being 200% done with a day and not being able to leave.

5 Children. 5:35-5:45

I quickly formulated a plan of action. I turned to Baby Boy and told him to go to the bathroom and I would bring him new clothes. I told Sweetie to go to the snack table. I turned to Astute and asked her if she would like to turn the pages when she heard the bubbles (she was delighted). Sweetie happily went to the table and waited for her food. Baby Boy went to the bathroom. As I was setting up Astute with the book, Baby Boy yelled to me, “I peed in the potty!”

“OK, good, wait for me.”

“NO I’M DONE” and started pulling up his pants

“You have wet clothes on! Wait until I bring you clean clothes!!”

“I’M DONE.”

It was time for stern voice.

“BABY BOY, YOU PEED YOUR PANTS. START CHANGING AND I WILL BRING YOU CLEAN CLOTHES. GET BACK IN THE BATHROOM.”

He listened.

Once Astute was set up, I grabbed clean clothes and a plastic bag for Baby Boy and handed them to him. I retrieved Sweetie’s food and unwrapped everything. All this went fairly smoothly except for having to say things like,
“Astute, hold up the book.”

“Unpredictable, don’t lick the Pout Pout Fish book!”

The parent of Attention-Seeker came in the room. I greeted him with my near-whisper voice. He turned to me and asked, “Oh, so are they reading books to each other now?”

The tone was not as condencing as it reads, but I braced myself for a complaint as I said, “Yeah, we’re trying it today.”

He nodded his head and said, “That’s a very good idea.”

Ya know what? Who cares that it was a last minute adjustment made only to keep things calm? I needed a win.

“Thank-you”

———————–

The last 15 minutes in the room were uneventful. There were no babies in the baby room, and by God’s grace, aftercare in the toddler room emptied by 6:15pm. I left work that day thinking,

“If I never pop out one of those things….I’ll be just fine.”

 

 

365+ Profiles Later…: October 5, 2015

Profiles.1

Roughly a year ago, I signed up for online dating. More specifically, Coffee Meets Bagel. It was a free app that didn’t have a creepy reputation, so I figured it was the cheapest and best way to gain an understanding of how one dated in the digital age. I’m no longer on Coffee Meets Bagel. Not because I met a ton of creeps or anything, it was just that my Mutual Profile Like to Actual Date ratio was not high at all. My friend Mimi told me, “If I were you, I would just go for the jugular and sign up for eHarmony.” So, I did. I’ve been on eHarmony for awhile and the Mutual Profile to Actual Date ratio has improved, so, consider this my endorsement for eHarmony.

Anyway, the other day I realized that it’s been almost a year since I started online dating and I thought, “That would be fun to write about.”

Then I realized I didn’t really know what to write about.

Should it be about bad interactions and dates? Sure, that was tempting, but I don’t want to give the impression that dating is a sinkhole.

Should I write a commentary of bad profiles I’ve seen? That seriously almost took the cake.* I have seen some stupid profiles. But everyone knows that there are some weirdos on dating sites.

Should I write about how people have responded to my dating approach? I decided not. There have been some responses and inquires that personally irked me but a blog post about it would simply blow it out of proportion.

So what to do I have to say?

I have really enjoyed the dating process and I plan to continue dating until I find someone that I can build a long-term relationship with. It has been a sometimes frustrating, sometimes disappointing but overall an interesting, enjoyable and an important aspect of my life this year. With that said, it is not the most important thing that has happened to me this year.

When I “catch up” my friends on what’s going on in my life, I have to prioritize. That makes sense, I should prioritize. But I’ve noticed that I place a higher priority on certain aspects of my life than others. So, for instance, when I was working for a nonprofit, there was this week or two where I busted my butt writing a quarterly update in addition to updating social media, networking, blogging, editing and meeting with my boss. That’s how I spent the majority of my day but when I caught up with my friend from Eastern that week, I struggled finding some news to tell her other than I had gone on a second date recently. It’s not that the second date was not important. Anyone who has dated knows that getting past the first date is noteworthy. But what made that date so highly important and personal accomplishments in my job not important? The answer was…nothing. Dating is an important part of my life. But it’s not the only, or most important event in my life.

I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I know this is not some new, groundbreaking idea and maybe you’re reading this rolling your eyes because of that. I’m choosing to write about this sentiment because while I’m not alone, I’m certainly in the minority. Our society places such a high value on relationship status and dating activity. That’s partly because dating is exciting, interesting, fun and can lead to major milestones your life. It’s also because until about thirty years ago, for most people(not all), moving into the adult world and having a spouse went hand in hand. In many cases, a spouse was the only way into the adult world. Now that’s not the case, but there is still a lingering expectation that adulthood must involve a relationship and eventually marriage. For some people, transitioning into adulthood does involve a relationship and marriage, and that’s a great thing. I have many friends who married young and I don’t think they made a bad choice. But for other people, like myself, transitioning into adulthood doesn’t involve a relationship or marriage. I would love to get married, but that’s not my reality right now and I am not about to miss the beauty and uniqueness of my life because I’m single.

This year I have bonded with my siblings, directed a nonprofit, went on two business trips, moved to a freelance position with the nonprofit, acted in three shows, made new theatre friends, bonded with my siblings, was a bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding, managed to gain the affection of two high-maintance parents, tried some new recipes, stayed calm when one kid got a head injury, educated myself on race relations, read many books, ran a 5K, lost eight pounds, saw three Broadway shows, went into NYC at least once a month, maintained my closest friendships, got a job at Barnes and Noble, saved enough money to pay off half my loans…and went on a handful of dates. It’s not that dating isn’t important to me. It’s that there are many things that are important to me and I want to appreciate all of them.

*Dating has provided my life with some entertainment. I couldn’t resist including a few particularly bad profiles I’ve come across. Enjoy*

Profiles.2Neeeeither of those are books…..

Profiles.32015 Winner of “Worst Ways to End a Paragraph”

Profiles.4There’s so much going on here…but glad that he has an open mind. -__-

 

Mr.Steve, published June 15, 2015

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I have had so many blessings in my life. Sometimes I contemplate my childhood, education, family and spiritual journey and these blessings really sink it. One of those blessings is having so many men of integrity in my life from a young age. I really am profoundly grateful to have so many examples of what a good man really looks like. One of those men was Steve Cobb (known to me as Mr.Steve). He was my dad’s best friend and a second father to me and my siblings. Today marks one year since he passed away. I’m sure he and my father are having great discussions in heaven, but I miss him and my father very much. Mr.Steve was an incredible person in so many ways. It feels selfish to keep my memories of this person to myself. So, here are some ways that Mr.Steve was a profound influence on my life.

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Support Against All Odds

My dad’s illness snuck up on us. He had a violent “warning” seizure which alerted the doctors to a massive brain tumor. He had to go into emergency surgery. My mom called Mr.Steve in tears, simply asking him to pray. He told her that he was going to try to come to the hospital. An hour or so later, he called and told my mom that he was on his way. As he sat with my mom in the waiting room, he shared how he wound up finding a ticket so quickly. Apparently, he called someone he knew that worked with an airline(a pilot, possibly). He explained the situation and asked for the friend to call him back with some options. Now, I can’t remember the numbers exactly, but here is the gist. The friend called back and said,

“We can get you a ticket today for $700”

Mr.Steve replied, “That’s not the will of God. Call me back” and hung up.

The friend called back, “We found a ticket today for $500”

M

The Next Step: published May 22, 2015

When I moved back to New Jersey from Pennsylvania, I didn’t tell a lot of people. Partially because “Moving back in with my parents!” wasn’t something that I wanted to post on Facebook, and partially because I didn’t want to deal with a lot of questions. Those closest to me knew that the move was the best option I had. I finally came up with something that I felt was honest and didn’t have to explain too much: “I’m figuring out my next step”. It’s such a great sentence. See, people who think that you should have your life figured out straight out of college could deal with the fact that I was making an effort to get there, and people who didn’t understand why I moved out in the first place applauded my wise financial/personal decision. It’s a win-win. And there’s honesty to it! I realized in early 2014 that I didn’t have a reason to stay in PA except that I wanted to be on my own. I went from job to job, trying to find a healthy fit, and nothing was working. By the end of the day I was physically(and often, emotionally) exhausted, so all I wanted was to watch Netflix in my tiny apartment. I didn’t want to connect with anyone or make any efforts to find new outlets. Things were not good. I really did need to figure out a new direction.

I’ve been in New Jersey since August. It hasn’t been easy, but I have two flexible part-time jobs, one that is actually in my field of study and another that’s always a source of entertainment. I have the luxury of being to save money with only having to consider a few basic expenses per month. Community theatre has kept me sane. I’m now fairly content in the decision that I made.

However, about a month ago I realized that the time to  “figure out the next step” was quickly approaching. I want to move with purpose. I don’t want to find myself in yet another lonely apartment, with a hurtful boss, and no interest to connect with anyone. At this point in my life, if I’m going to move with purpose, it’s going to be for either Grad School or Employment.

I took a week or two researching grad schools, rent, cities, possible living situations, employment possibilities, and so on. I put all the numbers in a spread sheet and all my options in a list and wrote out a timeline for each option. After all this pain-staking work, I sighed, leaned back, looked at my sheets, lists, timelines and….nothing. No strike of inspiration, no sense of clarity, no partiality, NOTHING.

I was really disappointed by the lack of epiphany. I really shouldn’t have expected it. Even the phrase “figuring out the next step” indicates lack of epiphany and is certainly void of any certainty. Yet, I was disappointed. I think I was disappointed because when t,here’s a lack of certainty it can be very tempting to believe that my life is at a standstill.

“Figuring out the next step” is exciting, frustrating, confusing and enlightening. But it does not indicate that I am a failure or that my life is on hold. I am a person in transition. The epiphany will strike or the right choice will slowly become evident. It’s just life, and I am fulfilled.

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Twenty-something III: Getting Through, April 23 2015

Being in your twenties is HARD. Career, living situations, faith, family, dating, friends, dreams, aspirations, goals, and everyday hardships. There’s a lot of joy and a lot of frustration. If I ever express my frustration with my twenties to those older than me, I’m often met with, “You’ll get through it” but with no indication as to the means.

To  me, “getting through” means clinging onto truth in the midst of uncertainty. In practice, that means turning to music, film, prayers, places and exercises that affirm honesty and comfort in my life.

Sometimes, I quickly find my stomach is in knots;my chest tight and empty. Everything inside me feels numb because of one picture, conversation or memory. I often sit at the head of my bed, facing my copy of “God is Present” by Thomas Merton, which hangs over my bed. I whisper, “My anxieties are real; they are the result of a wide variety of experiences, some of which I understand, some of which I do not understand…The presence of God does not always deliver me from anxiety but it always delivers me from anxieties…” until all the tightness and knots are undone and my body feels full again.

There are days where I feel confined to New Jersey. I live with my parents and I feel too old for this. I’m grateful for my fall-back part-time job, but I’ve been there since I was 18, and three-year-olds still drain you after two hours. On the way home, my heart is discouraged. I turn on, “Let it Sing” from Violet. I breathe deeply and let the words sink in, nodding in agreement, “Got some years ahead to go, you’ll go free if you take it slow. Got some years, it won’t be long and you’ll be free to sing your song”.

Sometimes, I’m not content being single. There are days when I desire companionship, soft lips, and a new adventure. I wrap my blanket around me in the place of a lovers arms, and watch the dating mishaps of Liz Lemon, Kimmy Schmidt, Jessica Day, and SNL’s relationship expert Leslie Jones. I don’t feel as alone as I laugh at Leslie exclaim, “WHO RELATIONSHIPS WORK OUT FOR COLIN? WHO THEY WORK OUT FOR?!”

My main source of income is as a director of Nine Ministry. I love having the freedom to work my own hours, being able to say that I have a job in my field, and spend the majority of my day doing something meaningful. Working non-profit is like a maze. Often it’s rewarding, stimulating work, but there are multiple dead-ends that I run into on a weekly or daily basis. Networking is a struggle, writers block is my nemesis, and finances are always a concern to some degree. On these days, I find myself at the gym and running track more often. Partially because I need the natural pick-me-up of endorphins and because I need to metaphorically push through struggles. At the end, glistening or soaking with sweat, the feeling of accomplishment gives me some perspective of my work-related struggles.

Getting through your twenties isn’t easy. However, I’m starting to appreciate the hurtles. Finding new ways to approach your problems is a very adult thing to do.

 

Ten Years Later, published March 2, 2015

10 Years Later.1

Today is March 2, 2015. That date may not mean much to you. But to me, it marks a huge life event. It has been ten years since I lost my father to brain cancer. I was fourteen when my dad died. Some simple math will tell you that I’m now twenty-four. Common sense will tell you that I’ve grown up since then. Empathy and experience will tell you that losing a parent makes you grow up faster than anyone ever should have to. In these ten years, something that my mother taught us to do was to “mark the day”. Let the tears come if they need to, but never force a storm where there is peace. So today, I’m marking the day with this piece of writing. There’s no way I can cover a ten-year journey in grief, but I can mark the day and talk a little about my father, grieving around other people, and what my life is like now.

10 Years Later.6

What is still true for me about my Father

I still find him funny: When I was young, I really wanted my Dad to speak at school chapel. I mean, he was a pastor, why shouldn’t he? Eventually he agreed to do it. I don’t remember exactly what the mini-sermon was about, but I know it started with a comical opening. I excitedly turned to my classmate and said, “See?! I told you he was funny!” My father was hysterical. Not all people knew this because he was often stoic and carried a respectable presence. But those who knew him knew his dry humor, witty jokes, and his secret prankster nature. For instance, one day, as students arrived at the seminary my parents attended, they saw that the parking lot had been defaced with (washable) paint, reading “Turn or Burn!” If you have ever gone to seminary or a Christian school(like I have), you know that many people there take themselves way too seriously. Everything if offensive, a debate, and everyone has a soapbox. Naturally, the school was abuzz by the offensive defaced parking lot. My dad’s best friend, Steve Cobb, met up with my dad for lunch. As he sat down, he said, “Dave, did you hear about the parki-” and then noticed my dad stifling laughter. Mr.Steve paused and then said, “Man….you didn’t!” My Dad looked up at him and stated simply, “Oh, I did.”

I’m deeply proud of him: My Father carried wisdom with him that I simply don’t understand. He was deeply spiritual, but he never lived in his head. He could debate theology for hours but knew that it didn’t matter if he didn’t love Jesus and serve the voiceless. He stood against prejudice in the south, treated all people equally, stood by his convictions, listened well, and so much more. I am so proud to say that David Allen Hayes is my father.

I still miss him: I was always a Daddy’s girl. I have the best memories of my dad. Sitting on his lap as he read to me. Him trying to convince me to dance with him in the store. Sitting down at the table and talking to me about whatever god-awful pop band I was obsessed with. Teaming up with me to tease my mom. I don’t miss him the same way that I did when he died. The pain is more of a general ache as opposed to an extremely heavy heart. Missing him is almost scheduled, or predictable, it is rarely sporadic. I do not actively grieve for him. I know He is finally with the Jesus He loved so fiercely, and that God and my parents guided me through grief and restoration. But man, oh man, do I still miss him.

10 Years Later.9

What is true about grieving around other people

Cliche’s make me angry: I’ve never gotten to the point where I heard a cliche and thought, “Wow! I understand that now!” Mostly I think, “Yeah, I get it but GOD there’s gotta be a better way to say that!!”  The University chaplain at my almar marter once mentioned in class that he believes in the truth of Romans 8:28 (a Bible verse often recited to the mourning), but not in the context of grief. He said that it communicates that those who are mourning are not allowed to truly grieve. Just because something is technically true does not mean it is helpful or even appropriate.

People love: I could easily turn this section into a vent against all the people who were just not helpful or compassionate during my family’s time in grieving. I almost took it that way, but that’s simply not fair to all the people who encouraged my family in the most simple and profound ways. People fed us, visited, helped my mother with finances, held our hands, hugged us, and listened. When God seemed so far away, we found His love, empathy and compassion in the faces of His creation.

Learning how and when to play the death card: I have a close friend of mine who lost her father at the same age I did. Recently we had a long discussion about how and when we tell new people that we lost our fathers. What we came to was that we didn’t mention it until we knew we really needed to, and we did we tried to cushion the news. Learning this information is a lot for some people to take in. Although the death of my father does not define me or my life, figuring out when to mention it is still tricky to maneuver.

10 Years Later.8

What is still true about my life without my father

I still believe: When I lost my Dad, my faith suffered. I went into deep denial of my pain and anger towards God because I had been taught that getting angry at God was a sin, and I figured if God really was the only one never to leave me I didn’t want to piss Him off. There was an authentic belief and spiritual life within me despite this, but I still did not want to acknowledge the wounds I now carried. After losing both of my grandpas within 6 months of each other following my Dad’s death, there came a breaking point where I realized that I thought God hated me. That was a surprise to me but it also made sense. I had been harboring that for a long time, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit it to anyone. It didn’t take long for God to gently speak truth into my life, and I decided to stick by Him, even if it was out of desperation. My faith was shaky for a long time, and it wasn’t until my late teenage years that I really started to process that God really didn’t hate me, that on the contrary, He loved me incomprehensibly. I would be lying if I said that I don’t still struggle. But finding freedom to express my emotions towards God with the knowledge that He is slow to anger has helped nurture and protect my faith through new trials. Expressing anger towards The Almighty and feeling Him respond to you in love is humbling and provoking. I have chosen to stand by Him.

I have a new family: My mother remarried in 2007 to a widower with 5 teenage and adult children. I gained brother-in-laws, sister-in-laws, nieces and nephews instantly. There is a unique, beautiful respect of my father and their mother. There is an understanding that just because we miss our parents doesn’t mean we don’t love our new family. There is also an understanding that neither parent will be forgotten. For instance, my nieces and nephews are told stories about their “Grandma Peggy” who lives in Heaven and was their parents mommy before Grammy. Now they have started to understand that if there was a Grandma Peggy before Grammy, that there was a different Daddy before Poppy. They have started asking questions about Grandma Peggy and Grandpa David, trying to piece the puzzle together. It’s strange, but beautiful

10 Years Later.3

My Dad used to say that we needed to “celebrate life.” These celebrations often came in adversity, and other times came just because we should. Today I celebrate the life of my father on earth and in Heaven.

 

LIKE/PASS: published February 14, 2015

I am currently on Coffee Meets Bagel, a dating website that sends you a daily match and you can like or pass on their profile. If both parties “like”, then you are connected to a private chatroom where you can talk and decide if you want to meet this person in real life. It’s been an interesting experience so far. At some point I hope my dating life will no longer be a game, but for now, it’s just a sidebar in the life of a single, Christian, twenty-something. I actually enjoy many aspects of being single, just not all of them. There are many aspects of the single experience that I “like” and others I wish I could “pass” by.

Beginning my work day with a shower, a hot cup of coffee and answering a batch of emails with the knowledge that I actually went to school for a job like this.

LIKE.

Nights spent backstage stifling laughter and whispering conversations with other cast members, feeling right at home despite the newness of the group.

LIKE.

Seeing the amount in my savings account increase without feeling the stress of paying rent.

LIKE.

Venturing into New York City on a regular basis for headshots, dates, dinners, events, and just because I can..

LIKE.

Rainy days where everyone seems to be hiding away under the covers and I have no one to share mine with.

PASS.

Coming into my parent’s home and feeling incredibly aware that I am a 24-year old living with people either under 21 or over 30.

PASS.

“There are a lot of future husbands out there.”

PASS.

“Do you trust God?”

PASS.

“If God wants it, He’ll make it happen.”

PASS.

“If you don’t get married, the Bible says you’ll get the greater reward.”

PASS. PASS. PASS. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PASS.

Coffee with another single friend without griping about the perils of singleness but discussing singleness as just another factor of life.

LIKE.

Pouring over my planner, laptop and Kindle open, organizing my travels and inevitable adventures. Coordinating auditions, performance dates, flight schedules, and ticket prices is much easier than coordinating two lives.

LIKE.

Peace in knowing that clarity in my life does not have to come with a spouse.

LIKE.

 

Twenty-something II: Mis-matched, published February 5, 2015

Missmatched

I recently moved back into my old room at my parent’s house. My things are up on the wall and everything is organized to my liking. After a lot of coordinating and rearranging to make things fit, I noticed that the aesthetic of the room doesn’t really make any sense. I was going for a clothes-line/lace/fabric/pins look, but it doesn’t line up. I have framed pictures throughout the room, a few pieces unframed art, glow-in-the-dark stars, a shelf full of mugs, Disney merchandise, empty Diet Coke bottles, and other more items that don’t fit together visually. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and I wonder if there’s a way to rearrange the decor so that it matches my personality and looks like it fits together.

Then again, the mismatched aesthetic of my room reflects my life in a way. I’m the Director of a non-profit but I live with my parents. There’s deep contentment in being single but I enjoy dating. Meeting new people consistently but always sticking with the tried-and-true friends. Being able to take advantage of New York City but itching to get out of New Jersey. Being health conscious and seeing very few results. Having a passion for backstage work but choosing to act. People tell me that your twenties are for “figuring things out” and deciding what you want. Some of it is fun and really exciting, but no one tells you how uneven the transition feels.

At some point I would like things to line up. I want to know that I am in a good place and not be waiting for things to get better. I would love to come to a place where I didn’t hold my breath before starting my car. It would be great to have a resumes that qualified me for hobbies and passions. Being able to finance myself without scraping by. I’m really looking forward to “figuring things out”

However, there is one thing I’ve figured out from being in such a transitional stage. When I think about where I was, am and want to be, having all my ducks in a row sounds boring. Having things a little out of order makes life interesting. It keeps you alert and active. It makes you appreciate when things turn out as you planned but doesn’t plummet you into despair when one thing goes wrong. I don’t need perfection. I just need to know I’m in a good place. A little mismatched actually sounds perfect.

 

“Snippets”, published January 12, 2015

Last year I challenged myself to write a sentence every day of the year. I failed but not without producing a substantial amount of good work(about 4-6 months). 2014 was yet another lesson is celebrating small victories. Here are 14 snipets from 2014:

1. Things cannot stay the same. (first entry)

2. Ghosts are ever present in the theatre.

3. All that is left to let go is what was.

4. Pride in participation is pride in creation.

5. Laughter lifts the night.

6. Remind me to never live fixated on the past and feebly attempt to connect it to the present.

7. There is still loss in the springing of life.

8. Great storyteller, remind me of love.

9. Comforter, remind me of joy.

10. How high can spirits lift with a little imagination.

11. Even a little star can secretly be a planet.

12.What stories are playing behind your eyes?

13. I believe the grand purpose of art is to bring people together.

14. The kindness of others overwhelms me. (last entry)

I’m going to challenge myself again to write a sentence for every day in 2015. Let’s see what happens.

 

 

“Inked, published November 12, 2014

“It’s beautiful!” “I’m seriously going to cry” “You got a WHAT?” “Really?” “Is that what I think it is?” “Let’s see the ink!” “Wait, how long have you had this??” “OOOO, what does it say??”

People had very strong reactions to my tattoo. I suppose it warrants a strong reaction. I didn’t want anyone to brush it off. I expected questions and comments, but I did not expect a real tattoo debate. I probably should have. I feel like I have done a fairly good job defending and explaining my tattoo, but I think I can do better. While I don’t want to play the LD card, I do have a processing disorder, and sometimes pointed questions about my personal decisions register as anger, disapproval, or fighting, which flusters me and I sometimes cannot give my best answer. Of course I know I need to continually work on this, but for not, I wanted to use my favorite processing tool, writing, to give a more detailed explanation of my tattoo.

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What is Says: The tattoo says, “The saints and poets, maybe”. It is one of the most famous lines from the play, Our Town. The main character, Emily, dies in Act III, and from the afterlife she can look back and semi-experience her past life. She decides to not relive anything because it’s too painful to realize what she took for granted. She says to the Stage Manager, “Do any human beings realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?” The Stage Manager replies, “No. The saints and poets, maybe. They do some.” I think it’s beautiful that this playwright attributed Christians and artists to being the only people who might understand the fleeting beauty of life.

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Why I Got it: When I first got my tattoo, a lot of people said, “Wow! I wouldn’t think you would get one!” Believe it or not, I’ve wanted a tattoo since I was 19/20 years old. I just didn’t know what I wanted. I had plenty of ideas, but couldn’t decide on one. In August 2013, my theatre director, friend, and mentor, Mark Hallen passed away. I decided that if I got a tattoo, I wanted it to represent my faith, passion for theatre, and the memory of Mark Hallen. I considered a lot of phrases and poems that Mark used to say and read, but nothing really stuck. One day I was thinking about Mark, and Our Town, which was the last play he directed before he passed away. I had played Emily, and as I was remembering his unique direction of Act III, I remembered this quote, and, the tattoo idea just hit me. It encompassed everything I wanted it to. I was sold.

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Experience: I decided on my tattoo sometime in November. I went to get my tattoo in early January. At that time, my roommate was with her family on her winter break, so I was living by myself. It was an incredibly lonely time for me, especially considering that I had been dumped a month prior. I decided this would be the best time because I was living on my own(so my Mom could only get so angry at me), and it gave me something to look forward to. Thankfully, two of my best friends who were still students at my Alma Mater had come back to school early to work on a play, so I recruited them to come with me. On the appointed date, they met me at my apartment, we drove to the tattoo parlor, worked with the artist, and then went up some windy stairs to “get inked”. My friends kindly took turns holding my hand. It HURT. Not as badly as I thought it would, but part of my tattoo was close to my elbow bone, so that was exceptionally painful. It only took about 20 minutes. After it was done, another customer immediately complimented it. We payed and went back to the apartment for a bit. I was freaked out for about an hour afterwards. I HAD GOTTEN A PERMANENT TATTOO. The freak-out faded quickly and I found myself quite in love with my tattoo. It gave me something new and exciting in my life, when everything seemed very hum-drum. It helped me “look at one another” again.

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Future: I am perfectly aware that this is permanent. Many people have asked me questions about my tattoo and its effect on my future. I am normally frustrated by these questions, but I try to remind myself that there are people who don’t think through getting a tattoo(I’m looking at you, guy at Hurricane Harbor with YOLO tattooed on your neck).Because I am a lot better at writing than I am at answering things on the spot, let me politely give my responses to the questions I am often posed with:

What about your job?: I currently work with a non-profit organization, which tends to be more lenient with tattoos and piercings, and I plan on working with this organization for a long time. I spend most of my work hours working from home as well. I am also pursuing a career in theatre; specifically backstage work. When you’re backstage, it doesn’t really matter what tattoos or piercings you have. Directors/Administrators will only get mad at you if you are not wearing black backstage. In terms of onstage work, I only pursue acting as a hobby, not as a job. Besides, costumers and make-up artists are used to covering up tattoos with make-up and costuming. I do understand that there are companies that do not allow tattoos to be visible (Starbucks, Disney, ect), but if I need or desire a job with one of those companies, I am prepared to hide the tattoo.

But it’s visible, you can’t hide it: My tattoo is on the inside of my left elbow. Yes, it is visible. I chose to make it visible because I felt like if I was going to get a tattoo that was partially an expression of my faith, it should be seen. However, there are 7 months out of the year that are chilly and I need to wear long sleeved shirts. So for the majority of the year, whenever I go out in public, it is covered. In terms of the other months or settings, there are bandages that I can wear, and industrial makeup is accessible to the public, not just makeup artists. Sephora specifically has a make-up line for tattoo covering. One bottle is $20, but Sephora is overpriced anyway, so, that’s not surprising. Lastly, my arms are often bent or crossed. Sometimes you honestly cannot see my tattoo when it is not covered. In terms of employment, if I ever need or want a job with a company that has a no-tattoo-visibility policy, I am prepared to hash out money for tattoo make-up, nude medical tape, bandages, and layering my clothing.

You travel a lot, and some cultures are not accepting of tattoos: I am aware that some cultures do not approve AT ALL of tattoos. However, in those situations, just because my tattoo is visible, doesn’t mean it’s not impossible to cover up. Like I said above, there are bandages, industrial makeup, and clothing choices I can use to cover it up if I need to.

But what if the guy you fall in love with doesn’t like tattoos?: Hopefully he will love me more than he dislikes my tattoo. ALSO, if a guy is conflicted about dating me because I have a feminine tattoo on my arm, he’s honestly just not worth my time.

You’ll regret that in your wedding pictures: I’m not ashamed of my tattoo, so I don’t care if it’s in my wedding pictures. Also, while I want to get married, I don’t know for certain if I will. I’m not going to shape every, single decision I make around a hypothetical, one-day event.

What about when you get older? It won’t look the same: I know that my body will change as I age. I know that means my tattoo will change as well. I want to be a cool older person, and I feel like a tattoo ads to that image, even if it is stretched out due to life and aging. Lastly, if my tattoo is really as bad as people paint it to be in the future, chances are, I would have other health-related problems that I would need to be more concerned about.

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Tattoos are addicting, so will you get another one?: Maybe. Probably. Not completely sure. Depends. The only thing I know for sure is that I’m not getting another tattoo for awhile. I either can’t afford it, can’t deal with pain, or justify the combination of both. The thing that I love about the tattoo that I have was that it was meaningful, inexpensive, non-timeconsuming, hideable, visible, simplistic, and unique. I’m not sure I can replicate that with another tattoo.

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I was not trying to be rebellious, trendy, controversial, or spontaneous when I got my tattoo. I wanted to express my faith, passion for theatre, and a reminder of Mark. I chose for that expression and reminder to be a tattoo, and I am happy with it. And if you are not happy with it….that’s fine. I’m not asking you to change your view of tattoos or to even agree with me. I just wanted a chance to explain my choice, because the tattoo is here to stay.

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” ‘Let’s Look at One Another!’ “, published November 12, 2014

In 2012, I was double cast as Emily Webb in Eastern University’s production of Our Town. It was one of the best collaborative experiences of my life. Throughout the process, I wrote about those fleeting moments that I was able to catch. 

Let's Look at One Another

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I sat in a hard plastic chair. Laying open in my lap wass a copy of Our Town. But I wasn’t really reading along anymore. My eyes were held captive by the 70-90 year olds reading it out loud in front of us. They sat in a row, mirroring the young’ns, none of us any older than 25. The 95 old woman read, “Living people don’t understand much, do they?” She paused and silently scanned her eyes across the row of youth. As much as my friends find it humorous when I tell this story, at that moment, I didn’t find it funny. I think I understand. But then again, do I really? It’s a question worth asking. It’s a question worth praying over. It’s a question worth pondering on. At least I’m trying to understand. God knows I’m trying to understand ma’m.

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I was lying on the Webb’s bench offstage. I wasn’t going on for awhile. I could rest. Imagine that.“This play is called Our Town” the Stage Manager said. I sighed in contentment. Everything about this show, and my life in general felt rushed. But not right then. In the time being, I could relish in the moment.

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There wasn’t anything spectacular about it. I watched my friend pace back and forth as he spouted out his lines. I just listened. He finally sat down, and I sat down next to him. He must have gone through his monologue at least three times, in a row, sometimes without my cuing line. We sat, and stared off together. Like I said, there was nothing spectacular about it… it was just a moment with a friend that for once didn’t seem to be moving too fast.

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I could hear the clicking of my heels echo throughout the hall. It was quiet. The lights reflected double in the windows. As I looked over the balcony I felt surrounded by light. Outside was so dark. From far off though, I could still see the lights on in Walton. Everything was around me was still. Everything around me was light. It was beautiful. From below I heard, “This is…geographically where Emily is when she says her good-byes.” I looked out at my college home that in a few months, I knew I would be saying good-bye to. Suddenly I understood Emily just a little bit more.

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I was exhausted. I was nervous. I was really ready for this weekend to be over. Act III lay in front of me and all I wanted was to go sleep. My mind rushed through lines. The list of homework I could be doing grew and grew. The problems I had were swirling in my brain. My heart was pounding. I tried to take a deep breath, which is difficult in a corset. Then there was the cue of thunder. I looked up to black umbrellas opening around me and a blue light shining down on us. For a play about treasuring life’s “little” moments, it’s so easy how life distracted me from it.

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That night, my stomach was in knots. And it wasn’t the corset. It was my nerves. I couldn’t eat. I wasn’t visibly shaking but I felt like I was. My nerves had not been this bad since I was a Stage Manager. Despite my nervousness, the hugs in the hall, grasped hands, thumbs up, shoulder pats, and kind words carried me through the night. Every action and word was paired with a face and a name that I hope I never forget. I know for sure that I will be forever grateful for them.

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We sat on the stage, in full costume and make-up. I sat on a chair, lightly touching flower petals of my boquet. Once again we sat across from the senior citizens who had inspired us months prior. They asked us questions and made comments that sent us into roaring laughter. Despite our ages, we had remarkable common ground. It’s amazing how stories bring people together

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Twenty-Something, published November 6, 2014

I am currently in a transitional phase of life. Some days I am incredibly grateful for it, and other days I loathe it. These are the days in the life of a twenty-something.

There are sunny days.  I have a job that results in me being able to say “Cool non-profit”, “In my field of study” and “Very encouraging”. The perfect cup of coffee warms my entire body. My car is working again. I love my body by maintaining a healthy lifestyle in both weight and fitness. I come across pictures of China, and I reel with happiness of a dream fulfilled. I research, budget, and plan my future travels extensively. My adventures seem very tangible and real today, and I am excited for what the future holds. I finalize audition material. I can actually pull the good out of my last romantic relationship, and I feel equipped if another relationship were to present itself. However, I am perfectly content with my platonic relationships, and I feel loved and surrounded. My present and future is full of freedom. God is still quiet, but He somehow seems nearer today.

Then there are cloudy days. I wonder how many different ways I can write, “Check out our website”. I burnt the coffee. My car is vibrating. A co-worker makes a comment about how I’m “bigger” and I curse my temple. China seems like a dream. My next adventures seem either unattainable, or very far in the future. No audition notices are posted. I feel lonely today, and wonder what it would be like to be in a romantic relationship where emotions and motives were not assumed or questioned. My friends seem to be fading; texting does not mean they are on my fingertips. I feel trapped. God is quiet and far away today.

Not every day is cloudy, or sunny. Some days are partly sunny and others are partly cloudy.  It can feel like a roller coaster sometimes, but really, it’s just life. A day in the life of a twenty-something just means realizing what life is really like.

 

Impressions, published October 18th, 2014

The moment had come. I had stepped off the plane into the Beijing Terminal. BEIJING. I was officially in another country. Not just in any other country, the other side of the world! The weather made me grateful that I had chopped off my hair prior to traveling. I quickly began to value English subtitles. Smells of new food welcomed me into the country. Everything was new, strange, and terribly exciting!

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On our bus ride to the hotel, I spent a lot of time looking out the window. I didn’t want to look away. I didn’t want to miss a beat. Large, shining buildings. The Beijing Olympic park. People with their families, standing outside their homes. Bikers on the side of the road. The city was pulsing with beauty, history and culture that I was thrilled to experience for the first time. Throughout the entire six weeks, I was consistently encountering new things. A bustling marketplace. An extravagant Buddhist temple. The pier dock where Marco Polo once practiced trade. My journal is filled with the amazing things I saw.

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The places I went, food I ate, and things I saw was not the limit of my experience. My teammates and I met so many wonderful people. They were kind and generous. They were eager to share their culture with us. That would ask us with excitement what words we knew in Chinese. One family happily showed us how to make dumplings. Students graciously took us out to eat.  They talked and laughed with us. These people gave us such a positive experience of China, and I am very grateful for them.

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I believe that too often we romanticize travel and other countries. They are weird, funny, different, incredible, like nothing we have ever seen before. That’s true, to an extent. Obviously I had experienced things that simply cannot be replicated in the States. Yet, not everything was a crazy adventure. Some things looked very familiar. Parents gripping the hand of their child by the street. A group of girls speaking in unison and breaking into laughter. A flirtatious couple waiting for the bus. A group of women exercising in the street. Groups of men playing card games. People are not to be romanticized. They are to be appreciated. We are different, but not as different as we tend to believe.

 

I haven’t posted in awhile but stuff is coming!, published September 21, 2014

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    Thank You, published August 22, 2014

   I wrote this a few days after Mark Hallen’s passing. He was an incredible teacher, mentor, theatre-maker, human, and friend.

Honestly, I didn’t know you very long.

But in that time, you became very dear to me.

I didn’t really get to say good-bye.

People tell me it’s better that way, because I didn’t have to see you in pain.

But you taught me to not shy away from pain.

So I don’t really know what to think.

I do know that I’m thankful.

I’m grateful for you.

I didn’t get to say good-bye.

But maybe there’s still time for “Thank-you.”

Thank-you.

Thank-you for welcoming me.

Thank-you for recognizing me.

Thank-you for your insight.

Thank-you for the trivial conversations.

Thank-you for all the times you made me angry.

Thank-you for your support.

Thank-you for your openness.

Thank-you for snapping.

Thank-you for apologizing(sometimes).

Thank-you for laughing.

Thank-you for crying.

Thank-you for breathing.

Thank-you for living.

 

Notes on Mirrors, published August 22, 2014

Written in a haste of thought on April 27, 2014

Mark,
I hated when you made us do mirrors. But for all the times I privately griped and complained and prayed, “Dear God, PLEASE let him not do mirrors today”, I thank-you for teaching me to see that person as the Imago Dei, the Walking Wounded, Seen and Loved. I’m not going anywhere without you. Happy birthday.
Sincerely,
Alicia aka The Diva

     Written after much thought following an honorary mirrors exercise on April 27, 2014. Miss you, Mark.

“Remember the basic human functions,” he would say.
“Breathe. Blink. Swallow,” he would remind us.
I was always surprised by how much that helped. Breathing fueled the synchronized movement. Blinking made it easier to hold eye contact. Swallowing acknowledge and temporarily relieved the awkwardness.
“This person is the Imago Dei, Walking Wounded, Seen and Loved,” he recited.
The Imago Dei and I often exchanged an acknowledging hint of a grin. I don’t know their wounds, they don’t know mine, but we both know they are there. Though we cannot see the wounds, we see each other and that is enough.
“In this moment, you are saying, ‘I’m not going anywhere without you,'” he would add.
Months later, I would find a picture, graded paper or email from him. Remember the basic human functions. Breathe, even if it’s shallow and shaky. Blink to clear or encourage the tears. Swallow the tight knot in my throat.
The Imago Dei is facing his reflection. The wounds that he taught me to embrace and acknowledge are healed. He is seen and Loved by his Maker.
He is there. I am here. My teacher is gone. But I still have stories, memories, and lessons. Lessons he taught me for the stage that were also lessons to live by.
Breathe, blink, swallow. Image Dei, Walking Wounded, Seen and Loved. Go for broke. Use it. Tell the truth. Find hot coals. The disasters are getting better. Let others carry you. There’s a genius in the room, and it’s not you. Suck less. We want you in the room.
Mark, I’m not going anywhere without you.
Thank you.

 

 

“It’s Aht, Dahling!”, published August 21, 2014

    I walked through the Philadelphia Museum of Art as slowly and respectfully as I could. I was hoping I could make-up for the underappreciated I had for art museums when I was in high school. So I inched in and out every room and by every painting and artifacts. Honestly there was one painting I was burning to see but I felt like it would be rude to run to the exhibit. I eventually found myself standing in front of Van Gough’s Sunflowers. I began to reach for camera and stopped. He devoted so much of his life to his art and no one appreciated it in his lifetime. I’m sure others who took pictures were appreciating it, but I felt like I just needed to examine. I got as close as I could, saw each and every brush stroke. I sat on a bench across from the painting and took in the colors; individually and collectively. After awhile, it was time to move on. There were other artists to respect. My friend and I took a break at the cafe and had a literature discussion with a stranger. Afterwards, instead of resuming our respectful, reverent, sophisticated, educated stroll through the museum, we lightly covered the Medieval Art with silly comments, snapchats, and laughter. As a particularly satisfying laugh settled, I remembered another time art mad me laugh.
“I don’t understand this” I whispered into the headset as two ninjas in scuba gear entered the stage right balcony.
“It’s aht, darling!”, saidMark in a mock-sophisticated voice, “Do you expect people to undahstand it I mean, what about when people first saw Orphus Rex?”
Of course his rant didn’t stop there and I sat shaking with quiet laughter. I still didn’t understand the ninjas, but that didn’t matter. Like the day in the Medieval Art exhibit, I felt like the art was motivating something more meaningful than I originally hoped for.
Art is many things. It’s a reflection of culture, the human condition and history. It’s about story-telling and self-expression. It provokes thought and change. I value moments of reverance and appreciation, like the Sunflowers. But, I also deeply value silly jokes in a museum and a ridiculous rant whispered over headset. Because art also brings people together and assists in creating precious memories. That’s one of the many reasons that I find joy in art.

 

 

Untitled, June 20, 2014

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I posted this without a post or caption. I guess I was excited about going to China.

Realization, published June 18, 2014

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For months, my upcoming journey has seemed far off. It has served as a daydream, a distraction, and proof that I am taking steps toward adventure.
But now my dream, distraction, and evidence were sitting in front of me as two empty suitcases. For this first time, it felt real. I’m going. I’m leaving. I won’t be gone long, but long enough for my dream to become reality, my distraction to become my focus, and my evidence to become tangible.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH.

 Kinetic, published June 5, 2015  wpid-img_20140513_195231.jpg

Running is the only time my body matches the speed of my thoughts and my life.

Smell cherry blossoms, wonder where home really is.

Glimpse a robin, recall history of the past year.

Feel a breeze, breathe a quick prayer.

Pass a church, long for peace.

Run on an incline, contemplate the uphill battle of growing up.

I’m running towards a goal

I’m running for health.

I’m running for balance.

I’m running towards a goal.

I’m running to figure things out.

Take in the sunset, know things are going to get better, and run faster.

Reminiscing, published June 5, 2014

We slowed down as we reached the house.
“There it is!” My mom said.
The new tenants had painted the house. We pointed out all the new things, all the changes. We had already driven past the old bus stops, the park where I learned to ride my bike, and the store my grandma always went to. We drove through nearby streets, the church we would visit when we couldn’t make it into the city, and the park we stopped going to because there were drug deals happening there.
I found that long forgotten memories were recalled in an instant. Age old stories seemed a little newer. Details were noticed that I have overlooked as a child. I spent the day literally driving through my memories.
Lately, reminiscing has been painful. Even the good memories have a twinge of sadness in them. But driving through Jersey City, remembering my first year adjusting to homeschooling, living in a city, and friendships that have faded away was not painful. It was comforting. Fun, even. It makes me wonder if I will ever feel that way about my most recent past.
Will I ever walk through my alma marketer’s theatre and greet every ghost with a fond smile? Is it possible that I will get off at Exit 18b on 476 and say, “Oh cra-wait! I know where I am, used to go to work this way, we can turn around up here”? Could I someday drive by my old apartment building and say to my eye rolling children, “Look, that’s where mommy used to live”? Yes….yes, it is possible!
As I drove past childhood memories, I realized that growing up means letting go but not forgetting.

 

Commencement, published May 10, 2014

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The sun is kindly shining down on us. Occasionally, there is a graceful breeze. Friends, mentors, classmates and haphazard professors cross the stage. Hippie alumni sit nearby. As I sit on a plastic lawn chair, I find myself contemplating the past.

Last time I wore a stupid hat and dark gown that I worked hard to receive. I was dreaming of a cute apartment with a good friend, a blossoming romantic relationship, and new artistic experiences. My life felt perfect. My new boyfriend picked me up and spun me around, my best friends snapped pictures and laughed, my family congratulated me. I left behind my home of two years and though I was sad to go, I felt hopeful about the future.

A year later, I’m sitting on the same field, thankful I’m not in that overbearing cap and gown because, man, it is HOT. I distract myself by thinking about how to make my apartment less empty now that my roommate is leaving. I snap back to the present because I don’t want to think about writing my 60 day notice. My ex-boyfriend is sitting on the same hill as last year, in the exact same blue shirt, but who knows if he’s actually remembering any of last year. When I remember that we met on a stage not far from here, I’m reminded that I had at least 2 new artistic experiences this year, even it was for that familiar stage that I will always call home. I look to my left and to my right and see my two best friends besides me. At least I have my friends and art going for me.

It has been a rough year, my piece of paper didn’t make it any easier. I was so hopeful about the future, which I can view in hindsight. Things often don’t turn out the way we plan, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this chapter coming to an end. My future holds international travel, sharpening artistic skills and a job that I went to school for, so I should be excited. There are plenty of things on the horizon.

The Chaplain prays, “And Lord, we know that endings are often new beginnings” and I pray, “Please let that be true.”

The Ramblings of a Soon-To-Be Adventurer Part 1, published May 2,2014

It’s all so romantic when I picture it.

The future.

Standing on the Great Wall of China, clad in a hip outfit and rocking a curly pixie cut, with the touch of ancient stone on my finger tips, while laughing with my new life-long friends that distance will never affect.

Sitting at the kitchen table, using my trained hands to sip coffee, type furiously and hold the phone to my ear while I am having a professional conversation where I don’t stumble over my words.

Hurriedly walking through town, gripping my niece by the hand, cold wind stinging my smiling face when I realize I was able to understand something she said in Albanian, despite my processing disorder.

Dressed professionally, but attractively at a business meeting in North Caroline where I’m the only one without a hint of a gahdforsaken southern accent and it doesn’t matter that I sleep alone because I have a career that validates the piece of paper hanging up over my bed.

Suddenly I’m snapped back to Barnes and Noble on a rainy day, where I shake my head clear and go back to reading about Emma Woodhouse, a girl who also thought too highly of herself.

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