A Note on Notes

I’ve been trying to be very intentional about writing notes and cards and letters. In fact, in the last month I’ve mailed seven. None for the sake of just sending a card – all because I wanted those seven people to know, “Hey. I’m thinking about you. This card is cute and so are you”. And there are certainly more to come. My personal goal is to send at least two a month, but the sky is the limit when it comes to something as important as postal love.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 7.38.32 PM.pngI say all the time, AND IM NEVER JOKING WHEN I SAY IT, that my dream job would be to work in a stationary store. That’s it. Small dreams McGee over here. But I don’t know what I love if not letters. Timothy obviously, but besides him?! To me, letters are the best way of showing love. They’re how my mother showed love. When I first moved to Memphis and was so so lonely, my mother mailed me a card every single week. Sometimes nothing would be in it except a quick “love you!” sometimes it would be covered with her sweet handwriting hoping I’m okay. My stationary box (a yellow polkadot suitcase that Timothy gave me for our very first Christmas together – treasure holding treasure) very much resembles the secretary drawer that my mother had full of cards, all organized by occasion. For me it’s all of it: taking the time to pick out a particular card, to write a personalized letter with your own hand and pen, to tenderly add a stamp as you smile thinking of the cherished and loved person behind the name written across the front  – these things are so personal.

My hope is that when you, my friends, receive a card in the mail that you feel all my intention and love within that envelope. Adult friendships are so… weird, and I feel that there are so many people I am wild about – CRAZY EVEN – that I just so rarely see because life is so busy, and sometimes so hard. But when I write someone a card, when I think really hard about which stamp to use on the envelope, I feel connected to them. And that’s really all I ever want.

Advertisements

Do You Suppose She’s a Wildflower?

img_1520I grew up amongst wild flowers that rose up to my waist. My small fingers ran down their stems and picked the very best ones to bring to my Mother. I touched their leaves and
hummed as the wind blew my brown hair across my freckled cheeks.

I danced in the rain, sometimes with an umbrella but usually without one. I would let the rain pour over me and soak my hair as I jumped barefoot into puddles. I would sing while I danced, in the rain amongst the wildflowers. Today I still stand at the very edge of my porch when it rains, so that I can feel the splashes of the drops against my arms.

Smells always take us back to specific moments, specific memories. Things we hadn’t thought of in years, suddenly so present. I walked into a  bookstore in Nashville and suddenly I was in my Grandmother’s living room in California. The smell of fresh wood makes me think of my Dad – the first carpenter I ever knew – and the smell of dirt takes me home. To my backyard. To dirt under my small fingernails and my Mother’s whistles from the door, letting me know it was time to come in.

I made fairy homes out of branches and bark and leaves and cloth from old shirts while the  sweet smell of gardenias encircled me. We planted sunflowers that grew past my head and I thought they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I ran through them pretending I was Pocahontas and sang “Just Around The Riverbend” with the kind of abandon only little kids have.

I live in a city now, but I grew up with room to run. I grew up with trees and gardens and quiet. Quiet that was filled with my singing as I ran and planted and made bouquets. I plant my hyacinth bulbs and succulents and sweet potato vines because the dirt reminds me of home. It reminds me of when I didn’t feel bogged down by mean politics or when life didn’t feel really heavy on my small shoulders. It makes me feel connected to my parents who have always worked with their hands.

I pull on the stained and worn green gardening gloves that my husband bought me long before he was my husband and think about the children I hope I have one day. I’ll tell them they are wildflowers: free and beautiful and a little magic.

Delicious Autumn

“I feel as if we love each other better in autumn”, I said on the blanket under the tree. “Maybe it’s because we fell in love in autumn and the air takes us back to those first new moments.”

We didn’t admit it till the winter, but we fell in love in the fall. And in Memphis, TN the landscape echoed the autumn crisp in the air – here in Florida it’s still green and brown, green and brown, but the cool air still sweeps over the water from time to time and feels like the most welcomed gift.

It feels like a pause. A pause from the intense heat – a pause from real life, even. Cool mornings are treated differently, almost ceremoniously: windows open, coffee cups clasped, sweaters dug out of the bottom drawer. “It’s beautiful today, we must go sit outside.”

Our living room curtains dance from the open windows and the candle flame on the coffee table flickers wildly, both enchanting to watch. The autumn breeze sends a small shiver down my back and makes the gathered hair around my neck dance.

As I listen to the breeze rush through the palm trees (a sound so full it almost mimics rain) I think about what this air means. It’s the first signal of holidays. It means that in a month or so my family will be gathered around the backyard I grew up in, eating vegetable medley and turkey, watching the little cousins run around the yard and remarking how much bigger they are than the year before. I was once one of the kids running around, but now I’m amazed at how quickly they’re growing.

This air is a signal that soon I will bake my grandmother’s pumpkin pie with my mom. A grandmother I never met, this is a small way I feel connected to her. I don’t know if autumn was her favorite season, but her most beloved dessert was pumpkin pie so in autumn I think of her. In this air I almost smell it. My mother and I don’t need to look at the recipe anymore, it’s memorized by our hands and heart.

These mornings always stir my restless legs. “How can we live so far away from mountains and colors? I need this air in my lungs every October morning!” Every autumn I threaten to run away from the flat lands of Florida and retreat to Tennessee or North Carolina. And with Timothy next to me, I bet one of these years we will.

A full day of work is ahead of me: phone calls and calendars and meeting with volunteers till 8pm. But right now, as the air is coming through my living room window and the sun has just started to peek over the buildings, life is still and rich.

Thursday Morning, 9am

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 6.08.38 PM.jpg

Random thoughts on a coffee shop:

The fabric on the chairs is different but my salted caramel latte, which I got the first time we came – and still get today – tastes the same. I suppose that over four years enough spills and blunders and stains collect that the chairs need to be reupholstered. They used to be a mustard yellow, now they’re blue like the sea. The chairs are the kind that go up past your head and almost form a cocoon around your conversation. Though you’re in the middle of a crowded coffee shop, you feel like all your words are safe.

We sat every Thursday morning in those chairs. It was so routine we didn’t have to confirm it with one another, we just both showed up. Thursday morning, 9am. You did forget a few times, arriving an hour late with sleepy eyes. I always waited. I made you buy me breakfast to make up for it, but I always waited. We sat and talked about God, but like the fabric of the chairs, that conversation has changed too. The ebb and flow of relationship; the letting go of dead things. Sarah Bessey wrote “If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention.”

We don’t meet anymore, but whenever I find myself drinking a salted caramel latte on a Thursday I think of how much I needed those conversations in that strange season.

The mugs are the same, though, still white and warm. In four years they’ve been held by so many hands and like the chairs, heard so many conversations. A dear friend told me she was moving while sipping from those mugs. I fixated my eyes on the mug in my lap because I needed to concentrate on not crying and if I looked at her, sincere face tears would have been inevitable, even though I had known what she was going to tell me from the moment she asked me to meet. She had never really been home here. I can still recall the sweet smell of her mango tea as she sighed and said, “I knew you’d be the hardest person to tell”. I don’t think she said this because I was her dearest friend in Tampa, but rather I think she knew how much I had always needed her.

I’m seeing her get married this December which is unfathomable, beautiful proof that four years is a long time, and four years can change things.

Our book club met there once. We were reading “Persuasion” by Jane Austen and it felt an appropriate setting for our discussion on feminism and love and the words of Captain Wentworth.

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.

Last month I was there too and I sat and watched my favorite little girl, Jo, walk her determined, new steps across the room. The same room that her mother and I sat in years prior, when her marriage was new and this little girl wasn’t yet a thought. Jo’s curls bounced along as she walked and I thought about how her presence – her very existence – has changed so many lives for the better. The girl I was four years ago sitting in that same coffee shop had no idea what it meant to a love a little person.

Jo walked up and down the staircase which is lined with portraits. Faces frozen in time by photographers and artists, still stationed in the same spot on the wall since opening day. They look out over a marble kingdom and I wonder if they would have come here if they were still alive. Would they have liked the local Tampa coffee culture, or would they have thought that the people here were snobs? It doesn’t much matter because here they are, in the background of a thousand staircase selfies.

I’ve written here, wrestled with God’s word here, cried here and laughed here. This room is a time capsule with memories scribbled on every wall. Today doesn’t look like four years ago, but the latte tastes the same.

Mothers, Scary Teachers, and Beyonce

Two weeks ago a friend asked me to write a few sentences about a moment that affected my life for part of an art project that she’s working on.

First, I sent her much more than a few sentences

Second, I was surprised at the moment that flooded to my memory.

I could have thought about my tales of unrequited love: the heartbreak, the listening to sad Avett Brothers songs on repeat, the walking around Paris on a semester abroad in tears over a boy  4,000 miles away.

I could have thought about meeting Tim, the moment that has come to be known as the-first-time-love-was-requited -and-thank-goodness-it-had-never-been-before-because-THIS-guy-was-worth-the-wait. Our wedding day, too, was certainly a life altering, things will never be the same again, type day.

Maybe even the day I realized how much of a happy feminist I am, because that certainly changed a lot about my life.

Instead, immediately upon reading her question, I thought about something kind my mother did for me in 4th grade.

_____________

In 4th grade I had a teachermiss_nelsonr that books like Miss Viola Swamp are written about: mean ones who seem to hate children. She was short, had long nails that were often painted blue, yelled a lot, and on several scaring occasions snapped at me in front of the class to stop being so shy. This, by the way, is a terrible tactic and I feel confident in saying that it has never once worked on any shy student. If anything, it made the butterflies that fluttered around my stomach everytime I had to speak in front of the class turn into pterodactyls.

(this is the first time I have ever written out the word “pterodactyl”. It took a while and involved googling because my entire life I had been one thousand percent sure that it started with a “T”) 

I can remember two days when I pretended to be sick so that I wouldn’t have to go to school.. and both times it worked. I figured that I was a pretty stellar actress, though it didn’t occur to me that maybe this wasn’t the case, considering that my mom never fell for my lies any other time, ever. Many days I simply cried over going.

During Christmas break my mom told me that when school started back up I would no longer be in the same class. There was a switch, she said, and I would be going to Ms. C’s class instead. Life was good for 4th grade me after that: I never pretended to be sick to get out of school and even though passing my previous teacher in the hall was a nightmare and I would very nervously look at my feet while doing so, I was thrilled over the magical switch that had taken place.

The reason for this change in classrooms, of course, didn’t occur to me for quite some time. Truthfully I was just happy it happened: I didn’t care what prompted it. I didn’t realize that this convenient arrangement came by way of many meetings with the principal, paperwork, a hard conversation with my former teacher, and a lot of love.

My mother knew I wasn’t sick (after all, I was her 5th child: she’d seen her fair share of genuine sickness, and “nice try” sickness by the time I came along), and she also knew there was something wrong with her daughter dreading school so much – for the first time ever. Lots of kids don’t like going to school, but there’s a line between just not liking it and being terrified of it. My mother had been a volunteer in my classroom and she knew my teacher well. She liked her on certain levels, largely because my mother loves people in a way that I one day hope to, but she too wondered how a woman who seemed so unhappy teaching kids ended up teaching kids.

I know now that on the last day of school before Christmas break, while I was gathering up my christmas crafts to bring home, my mother nervously pulled my teacher aside and did something she didn’t want to do. My mother is the text book example of what it means to be loving. She loves the unloveable (which sometimes means me) and wishes nothing ill on anyone – even those others might say deserve it. She is always so careful to not offend or belittle other people, not because she’s passive (you obviously haven’t met my mother) but because she cares so deeply for the feelings of others. And yet, being this way and caring so much, even knowing that it would likely cause hurt, my mother told my teacher privately: “I am truly sorry if this hurts your feelings, and I will still help in your classroom if you need, but my most important job is protecting my daughter. She is going to be starting back in a new class after the break.”

This isn’t the kindest thing my parents have done for me. As a matter of fact, there are thousands of stories of love in my childhood and for that I am more grateful than I can say. Yet this is the one that came to my mind at the question: describe a moment that affected your life.

Why?

I think learning the truth of this simple story -the way my mother had basically fought for me – was the first time I had a taste of the weight of motherhood and the incredible, beautiful, and welcomed burden of protecting your child’s whole self. The business of parenting deals with all the facets: making sure your child has enough to eat, but also making sure their spirit doesn’t feel stepped on. Teaching your child to feel brave enough to speak what’s on her mind, but not allowing others to shame her shyness. And it means protecting all these facets even when it is wildly uncomfortable to do so.

__________

If you’re wondering, my teacher didn’t take the news very well. She was offended and she was upset and she wasn’t at all blamed for feeling as such. Some time later she ended up moving into our neighborhood and wouldn’t you know it, she and my mom were able to kind of sort of be friends. My mom has used this as a life lesson before: always be kind and gracious even when it’s difficult. You never know who is going to move to your street.

This is similar to Beyonce’s advice of “always be gracious, best revenge is your paper“, but it’s way better because the best revenge is being nice to people who don’t warrant your niceness.

The Church & Books.

The church I attend every Sunday is called Watermark. It is the home of many young souls wild about Christ and old pews and lots of coffee. Our pastor teaches us about the incredible symbolism and intentionally of God in scripture and we sing songs about love and grace and trials.  After service, children run through the aisles as parents gather together. Our building once held ugly carpet and a 1960’s baptismal and many loyal Baptists who sold their building to us for far less than it was worth.  We said we wanted to raise our children in that building and learn about God together and though our offer was about half of those who wanted to knock the church over and build apartments, they picked us to fill the rooms.

I’ve attended this church for about 5 years and it’s precious to my heart. It is not, however, the only church I attend.

My other church is sometimes at the kitchen table, sometimes outside on a picnic blanket, sometimes in other states. Most recently, that church was gathered in my living room in the form of book club. Six of us, holding “Cold Tangerines” in our laps, talking about the ways that Shauna Niequist seemingly stole pages from our diaries and wrote the words of our heart. We remarked how relatable her words on celebration were and how jealous we were of her travels and how we need to stop living like we’re waiting. Life is here! It’s now! It’s exploding out of every clap of laughter!

Candle light bounced off our wine glasses and we ate more baked brie than our diets would have permitted.  We unapologetically followed every rabbit trail that came up in conversation and somehow turned Shauna’s words on joy into sharing stories of embarrassing haircuts and outfits in middle school (think wayyy too short bangs and neon green overalls). We laughed so hard that we cried. We sat that day’s busyness and bothers at the door and were present for one another.

We didn’t talk all that much about God but I think that when His people are gathered together in friendship and joy and lightness, it’s still church. It’s still life giving and gorgeous.

Book club. Church. Praise God.

Lesson Learned: Celebrate Everything

Some time ago I sat down in Oxford Exchange and began writing a book. A book about the things that I have learned from the beautiful men and women I have rubbed shoulders with and embraced over the years. This task will take ages but I am not letting myself be flustered by that. The truth is, I do work full time at a non profit that takes an emotional toll sometimes, and I am planning a wedding and trying to cling to God as my life is about to change. The writing is slow. It’s slow, but it’s good. To my soul, I mean. I was revisiting some of the first essays I wrote out – still very rough, just like me – and I decided to share one. This last week brought along a rockslide. Fear and the slamming of doors. Now more than ever, I need to remember the importance of celebration. 

This particular lesson was taught to me by a beautiful blonde, who, states away, is still celebrating with me.

_____________________________________________

celebrate

I guess the real first thing she ever taught me was to cook dinner for people you love. Get yourself a round table* and sit at it with new faces and old faces and beloved faces. The first time she invited me over for dinner at her round table she made a light and fresh and healthy homemade meal. It was delicious and made more so by being followed with giant bowls of ice cream. We sat crisscross, knee to knee, with our mountain sized bowls of delicious frozen calories in our laps. We chatted and laughed on a day bed she had in her living room, which was being used as a couch until a cheap one could be acquired. Some time later I would sleep on that very bed while temporarily living with her after returning to Tampa from a year in Memphis, TN with no home. But I’m jumping ahead.

That evening was the first of many times I was impressed with her. Her eyes sparkled when she spoke about the friends she had moved away from and the city that was engraved in her heart. She told me about the life celebrations her community would have back home. They celebrated everything together. “Why should only people who are getting married and having babies get presents and parties in their honor?!” they questioned, and so new jobs and new homes and new attitudes and all exciting moments received acknowledgement. How beautiful.

I think that’s the way it should be: everything should be celebrated. Everyone should receive photo books and love letters. Everyone should have his or her name on a banner every now and then – especially if it’s homemade bunting. While the old saying ‘too much of a good thing is a bad thing’ can be true in certain circumstances (I’m looking at you, Target), I do not believe it applies to celebrations. Or dessert. Yes, I am quite certain that the authenticity of lifting one another up will never grow out-of-date.

And the why of it is very simple: there are plenty of things in every one of our lives that are heavy. There is no shortage of worry and stress and heartache and fear in my life or in yours. If the weights on our shoulders were literal and not metaphorical, chiropractors would be the busiest people in the world. We’ve all got really heavy things. We’ve all cried ourselves to sleep, snapped at our loved ones because of stress, wandered away from God through the misconception that we have to handle things ourselves. With heaviness often comes loneliness and the feeling that we’re the only ones who have experienced such garbage.

I’ve felt this way a million times: right now as work has thrown for a scary loop, when I was feeling the weight of the seventy thousand emotions that came with moving to a new state alone, I believed that no one on earth could have possibly felt the turmoil that I was feeling. I was wrong, of course. As we always tend to be when we think we’re the only ones.

This is a really basic example, but some months ago I met up with an acquaintance from high school for drinks. She was the one who asked me about meeting up because I wouldn’t have asked her if my life depended on it. Suffice it to say, we weren’t in the same social group back in high school. And by that I mean she was IN a social group and I spent my Friday nights eating Chinese food with my parents and watching “My Best Friends Wedding” every single week (no regrets – Rupert Everett is a peach, plus I can probably lip sync “I Say a Little Prayer for You” better than most as a result of so many rewatchings of that film).

She was beautiful when everyone else was an awkward teenager, and she was confident in a way I could have only ever dreamed of being. She was always very kind, but her friends tended to be… well, not so nice. They weren’t outrageously impressed with the tall gangly girl who wore a lot of band t-shirts and skinny jeans and stammered every time she talked. And they were not subtle about it (y’all, be nice to every single person you have the chance to be nice to. Even if it kills you… which it won’t, because being nice isn’t that difficult. Don’t be the mean person that quiet people like me grow up to write about).

Essentially, she was out of my friend league. Imagine my surprise when six years later we both found ourselves living in Tampa and she asks me for drinks. I tried on three different outfits and ventured downtown to see her. My, was it a lovely evening. We talked about traveling and flirtatious elderly Italian men, had cocktails I couldn’t really afford, and laughed about high school. In talking with her I learned something very important, something everyone in high school needs to understand: the people who seem to have it all together and also crushed when someone doesn’t like them back, also feel weird in their skin, and are figuring it all out as they go, just like you.

I’m finding the same concept to be true in adulthood as well. Every time I shake my fist at the air and yell “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING AND EVERYONE ELSE IS GOING TO MEDICAL SCHOOL AND MOVING TO LONDON AND RUNNING THEIR OWN BUSINESSES AND I’M MAD ABOUT IT”, I very quickly come across a friend who shares the same sentiment. Turns out most adults don’t know what they’re doing. Who knew? I am stumbling through life as I go, reaching for God spastically like a cat that just fell in water, half listening to His instruction but also kind of panicking. And so is everyone else, at least for a season. That, my dear reader, is the most concise definition of adulthood I can muster.

Therefore, because everyone feels weird and life is hard and sometimes we feel so terrifyingly alone, and because we’re all submerged cats panicking (is this the best metaphor I could use? Probably not), those moments of getting on dry land, temporary as it will certainly be, need to be acknowledged. More than that, they need to be celebrated. In celebrating together, we will be lifting one another up in beautiful community that will refresh our own souls as well as whoever’s name is on the banner.

So what I would like you and I to do next time someone finds himself on dry land is to not just send a text about it or leave an encouraging emoji filled comment on their instagram. Make them a banner, invite just a few lovely souls over, pour some wine, and celebrate. No matter how busy you are, no matter how underwater you yourself are feeling at the moment, praise Jesus when someone else has come out of the waves.

If life is going to be hard and heavy anyway (and it will be), we might as well walk through it hand in hand and really celebrate the heck out of anything and everything we’re able. 

* A note about tables: I’m no craftsman or designer, but I am here to say that there is a reason King Arthur’s knights sat at a round table. When you get your own home or apartment, get a nice set of white dishes (they’ll match every cool and colorful and eclectic thing you bring home from a thrift store) and a sturdy round table. Here’s why: it is much more conducive to seeing the candlelight dance in everyone’s eyes when you’re in a circle, the support is in the middle so there isn’t any awkward banging of knees as you sit hip to hip (I’m 5’10 and nearly all leg so I feel I have the authority to say that wrestling with a leg on every table corner is unacceptable), and it’s easier to cram a whole gaggle of loved ones in a circle than a square. Seriously, get yourself a round table. Go to thrift stores, go to garage sales, go wherever you need to go that fits into your budget, but get one.

That’s an order. **

            ** A note about my note: my handsome fiancé read this while I was writing and he said, “Well, you know there really WAS a significant reason that the knights sat in a circle. And it had nothing to do with dancing candlelight”. So, okay, sure: if you’re going to be a history snob about it, the candlelight probably had nothing to do with King Arthur’s design intentions. But it should have.

Paris in Summer

IMG_4167

Four years ago it felt like the city was ours. Running around with wide eyes and backpacks slung over our shoulders, doing our best to assimilate but still gawking over the cafes that the Fitzgeralds wrote in and the streets where our favorite films were filmed. Remember when we were sitting in a park and suddenly realized it was the same park from 24e Arrondissmenet, the short film from Paris, je T’aime? Or when we very-much-on-purpose found ourselves in the same Café that Amelie had been filmed in? I had my first Crème Brulee there and cracked the top the very same way. We were all young, students immersed in our studies of art and culture and humanity, devouring museums and baguettes. We walked on the edges of fountains, wrote our names on locks that would remain forever (sighed four years later when “forever” found an expiration date), drank wine by the Eiffel Tower, and pretended to be French students for discounted Louvre tickets.

Four years ago it felt like the city was ours.  As if the streets had been paved for our footprints, the lamps installed to light our late night walks, the art curated to feed our souls. Didn’t it somehow feel that we were the only ones there? Amongst all the crowded metros, didn’t it still feel like ours? Paris has a way of doing that; of making every traveler feel like she belongs to them. What a saucy little minx, that Paris.  Even knowing that four tourist filled summers have passed, I still feel as if those streets were mine. Those croissants were mine, the glorified Rembrandt paintings were mine, and the city was mine.

IMG_4168

There’s something about being an art student in Paris. You already know that the Mona Lisa is much smaller than most people realize. You also know that the reason it was such an important piece of work at the time it was created was because of the painting technique DaVinci used – not because the subject was some mysterious woman. You don’t crowd around to see her. Incredible as she is, you know there’s much else to see. After all, there are Titian works to be found and a particular Oath of the Horatii to look in on. Paintings looked at in text books for years – paintings you wrote essays on and copied for practice –  suddenly in front of your face. You can see the brush strokes. The brush strokes! Indeed, being an art student in Paris must feel similarly to how normal people feel when they see celebrities

Time really paused four years ago. Our normal lives didn’t exist much in Paris and perhaps that’s why she is so easy a city to fall in love with. Paris tosses your heaviness aside and grabs you by the hand, whirling you around and around in a dance as dizzy as the Moulin Rouge.

Our fearless leader and program director quoted A Moveable Feast to us before we left for Paris. He said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast”. Friends, we feasted indeed.

Where I Was Five Years Ago

I believe Time Hop is one of the most incredible iPhone apps of all time because it is a marriage between three of my very favorite things: sentimentalism, nostalgia, and memories of myself. If you aren’t familiar, each day time hop will show you pictures you saved on your phone and posts you made on facebook and Instagram years passed on that same day. So today is January 17th, 2015: on time hop I see what I posted on January 17th, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010. Every day is a new walk down memory lane. I have remembered beautiful things that I have slipped my mind, I have seen Instagram posts long forgotten that now sting a little with painful memories, and I have looked upon my words and photos and the people in the photos with some serious hindsight. I’ve become fully aware of how little I knew in the years passed.

five years ago

This morning was a glorious Saturday because no alarm was set. No errands or obligations awaited me this morning as I watched the shadows dance on my wall while the sun delicately covered my room. I picked up my phone from the nightstand, scrolled through instagram quickly, and clicked on Time Hop.

One year ago today I shared a precious painting the little I had been a nanny for created. Two years ago I kindly shared a buzz feed article ranking Mary Kate and Ashely movies – you’re welcome, all. I was reminded that four years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon with sweet friends making homemade burritos. In the photo are three friends: two of those faces are married today (and one is pregnant!) and the third friend is engaged to marry someone he had no idea he loved four years ago.

Five years ago flooded me with memories:

IMG_3103Five years ago today I was standing in a brand new dorm room. I had just transferred to USF and it felt like the first real thing I had ever done. The first step towards something. The first bloom of a magnolia tree. That day was so full of promise and mystery and excitement and loneliness. I didn’t know that my love for photography would wane – that this degree I was working on so diligently would one day just be a line on my resume and not the passion of my heart. You can never know such things ahead of time. Instead, I stood there in that dorm room dreaming of all that I would be. I put up my polaroids, bought myself some flowers, and went to a dorm meeting that proved to be a waste of time.

Five years ago today I was standing in a brand new dorm room, smitten with a boy from home with whom I had spent many late nights at IHOP. Nights filled with pancakes and life stories and butterflies fluttering around my heart. Our friendship was true and deep – void of any shallowness. His authenticity got me in a moment. I moved to USF before finding out if those pesky butterflies were mutual: if there was any hidden agenda behind our long and easy conversations. I worried the two hours between our new respective schools would feel more like the atlantic ocean than a manageable drive. About a month into my time at USF he and I were not messaging and laughing nearly as much as we had prior, but still he and a mutual friend of ours visited Tampa for a show at my favorite used book store. There was a lot of weight on this visit as we shuffled through the rows and rows of books. We pulled out books from the shelves, remarking how great of a read this book was and how too self-aware that one was, flipping through pages and allowing that that unequivocal smell of old paper to fill the air. All the while I knew we were ebbing away from one another. I changed clothes four times before meeting them and ultimately I regretted the outfit I chose. It included a waist belt with a bow that I was fiddling with the moment he mentioned this cool girl he was working on a paper with. A few weeks later he started dating her and I ate a lot of ben and jerry’s in my dorm room while I watched Modern Family. 

Five years ago today I was standing in a brand new dorm room of a school at which I had one friend. A friend who I felt understood my soul. A friend I thought would be mine for ever and ever. Nights without studying were spent in one another’s rooms watching Will and Grace and When Harry Met Sally and speaking in dramatics. We talked about love with an authority we did not possess – so sure we understood this vast, impossible idea. We would decide, “We should play tennis. We would probably be really good at tennis if we tried” only to play once and spend most of the match standing at the net talking about the crazy stories people wrote in her creative writing class. Then we would decide, “We should start running. We would probably be really good at it” and then we would run a few times, sign up for some 5k’s, and then eat pancakes at home instead of going to the race. We were very much in our own bubble, a characteristic of our friendship I now know was not beneficial. I relied too heavily on her for all of my community needs. Plus, when you’re in your own bubble you tend to be far too harsh on those not part of it. We spoke very bitterly of others and it was poison to our hearts – the exact opposite of how God calls us to handle other people. Our friendship began five years ago and only lasted for three despite how strong I believed it to be. There is a wedding coming up in a few months for some mutual friends of ours and she may be there. I imagine us seeing each other through a crowd of well dressed wedding goers, and if that truly happens it will be the first time seeing each other in over two years. I shared homes with this friend and all of my heart, and now we tend to only text each other when a new David Beckham commercial comes on during the Super Bowl. I believe there are 83 reasons why our friendship didn’t endure, but each one of them makes me heavy hearted.

Five years ago today, as I stood in that brand new dorm room, I had no idea of what would await me. I didn’t know the next five years would include finding a church that would help me fall more and more and more in love with Christ. The Kathryn in that picture didn’t know the fullness of her God. I didn’t know my value was from Him and not from my weight or degree or how artistic I could be. I didn’t know my heart would be crushed so many times in the years to come, by friends and by guys. I didn’t know the sins I would fall into, the sicknesses that would disrupt my family, or the way God would resurrect all of that. I didn’t know the books that would come to change my life, the art that I would create, the way writing would speak to my soul. I didn’t know I would move to Memphis for a year and I didn’t know that there I would fall in love with a man who is shorter than me (the Kathryn in that picture was far too insecure about being 5’10”) and my very very best friend.

Maybe on January 17th, 2020 I’ll click on time hop and remember the words that I’ve written today. I’ll smile and lovingly shake my head as I remember everything that I am feeling this Saturday morning. Everything that today feels big and important will feel as small as the crush I had back in 2010. I will have endured more pains and hardships and love and light and I will think how 2015 Kathryn had no idea what was coming for her.

Blankets Made by Your Grandmother Warm You Twice

Today I was helping at our church and I needed to grab something from the kitchen. The building our church is in was built back in the 60’s and the kitchen has some of the original cabinets and countertops. The moment I stepped foot in the room, I was in my Grandmother’s home in West Covina, California. That room smelled exactly like the small cozy home I would visit once a year as a child. Suddenly my brain flooded with memories. I love that smells can do that. Smells and songs and outfits and movies and tastes. I love the consequences of sentiment. The memory lanes we walk down. The involuntary smile that comes across your face as you remember.

_________________________________

Hand Knitted Colorful Blankets copy

The air was always crisper and the grass was a lot squishier there at my Grandmother’s house in West Covina, California. California had real grass, not the pokey crab grass we have here in Florida. It was a small house with big pink rose bushes in the front yard and it was just down the street from a small neighborhood playground I called “Barney Park”. My reasoning is not clear, as Barney the dinosaur was not the theme of the playground. Every year when we arrived she would come down the three front steps as quickly as her age allowed and hugged me up. She was my mam-maw (sometimes cute little kid names for things like “grandma” are difficult to spell).

Everything in her home was old – the white kitchen cabinets, the dark brown carpet, the curtains; her home was the epitome of a grandparent’s home. Shelves were filled with trinkets and old mugs (whenever we visited my mother would always use a white mug that said EGBOK in red letters. It stood for “everything’s gonna be o.k” and my grandmother won it from a radio contest. Now it sits in the china cabinet in my parent’s home). I thought her home was a museum full of wonders. In her kitchen she kept a chart of my height; little lines all up the side marking my growth and the passing of sweet time. Every morning she would cook up giant plates of crispy bacon because she thought I loved it. In reality I like bacon right in the middle – a little crisp and a little bendy. But I loved that she found such joy in doing something kind for me, so I never said anything. The sweetness won me over.

The room that my father had spent his childhood in was then filled with shelves and shelves of yarn and bingo stampers and porcelain dolls. From all that yarn she made me the most beautiful multicolored blanket, which I shall keep forever. Blankets made by your grandmother warm you twice.

IMG_6687

In the living room she would set up a TV tray and a 1970’s vanity stool that I thought was glamorous (which you can see in the background of this photo) and we’d eat chocolate ice cream cups together. But never on the coffee table. I wasn’t allowed to scratch her lovely coffee table. Her voice was raspy from far too many years of smoking and she called me “doll”. My grandmother was a sassy Italian and I am certain that if she were still alive we would be the best of friends and our sarcasm would be borderline offensive to others. She was so patient with me. While I am sure my parents would give her breaks from me on our visits, I just remember spending time with her. Sitting together and talking. Sometimes even talking a little too much. She did not realize that my parents had told me the story of my birth – that my mother could not have a baby so I was “outsourced”, but the day that I started talking about it, she figured it out. And she was horrified.

“Mam-maw, let’s talk.”

“Okay doll, you first.”

“Okay. Once upon a time, there were two people who wanted to have a baby. And they asked God to put a baby in the mommy’s tummy but he didn’t. So they got a baby from noonie’s tummy. And do you know who that baby was, mam-maw? ME!”

“…”

One of my favorite activities with her was playing Bingo. Not real Bingo, we would just sit at the dining room table for hours playing with her colorful bingo stampers. I would stamp pictures of trees and cars and Barney Park and all the while I believed that was how you played Bingo: you just painted things with the stampers. I can remember telling my friends at home about playing bingo with my mam-maw in California and I felt very adult about it.

She kept a bike for me in her garage: my own special bike with pink and purple shimmery ribbons. It was a grand event to pull it out on the first day of our visits. Every year the ribbons were more lovely than I had remembered. I would breath in the crisp air and ride my beautiful bike down the sidewalk to Barney Park and to this day I am certain those were the most peaceful and joyous moments I have ever had. Just being outside in the magical land of California with a pretty bike and a pretty grandmother.

Back home, I had a yellow California state magnet on our fridge and every time I saw it I thought of my mam-maw and my young heart would flutter thinking of the next time we would get to fly on the airplane to see my buddy. Because I would only see her once a year, she was like Christmas to me. Something special that I only got to savor for a short time. I loved my grandmother so very much. I still love my grandmother so very much. I love the son that she raised, I love the photographs of her I have, I love the last name that I share with her, I love every single memory I have of that woman. I shall never allow another person to call me “doll” – that term of endearment is forever hers and hers alone.

On Cousins and Embarassment.

Cousins are weird. I mean, they’re great and I think mine are way cool, but cousin dynamics, generally speaking, are weird. Almost every awkward family story I have ever heard has involved cousins. Or sassy grandparents, those admittedly are my favorite stories. I think a lot of times cousin relationships are weird because there’s a lot of pressure to be close: your parents are bff siblings so obviously they want their children to be close, too. Sometimes cousins even look alike so there’s added pressure because even your bodies are like, LOOK AT HOW MUCH WE’RE RELATED. Those bits of identical DNA floating around your bodies (I have zero idea how genetics works) insists your relationship be special.

photo

All the grandparents and adults love watching “the cousins”  playing together (adults love saying “the cousins” like we’ve all formed a band and that is our terribly uninspired band name), but I don’t think it’s ever the utopia they imagine. Grouping us all together actually made tensions high sometimes: when I was little my grandfather would give all the grandkids a present on my birthday. He was sweet and cute and didn’t want anyone to feel left out but that is literally the point of birthdays. For others to be left out because there is hardly enough room in this day to celebrate me (and yeah I would also get presents on other cousins birthdays too, but that is wildly beside the point). Hard to be best friends with punk kids who get presents on your birthday. I’m sayin’.

More than that, cousins are tricky because the odds of having one your exact age are not great. In my family it was impossible.

I was six years younger than most of my cousins. And the ones I wasn’t six years younger than were nearly six years younger than me. 1 or 2 years isn’t a very big gap, but six is pushing it. Six meant that while I was into Barbie’s, my older cousins were into crushes. We didn’t relate to each other. They knew it, but I did not. While it has never been admitted to me, I know that I was an annoying little cousin. They probably thought I was lame in the way that all 12 year olds think all six year olds are lame. Because I was. But my perception of the situation? I thought they were the most cool people I had ever seen in my life and that if I tried really hard, they would think the same thing about me. One cousin in particular, who is now one of the sweetest momma’s I have ever seen to three beautiful girls, was so cool I could not even. Even as a child I was unable to even. She wore a two piece swim suit, had piercings, dated boys, and listened to music that wasn’t on the only Christian radio station I was allowed to listen to.

She would always courteously play dolls with me when she came to visit, but I’m sure this wasn’t the highlight of her trip. Getting to hang out with my older sister was probably much more her speed. After all, when she was with my sister she could do things like watch PG13 movies. You may not know this, but PG13 movies are much more fun than painting your little cousins fingernails.

When I think back (mildly in embarrassment..) to our time together when I was little, one memory always stands out. It was the most insignificant thing to EVER HAPPEN IN MY LIFE, but I carry the shame with me to this day.

Her dad, my mom (the bff siblings), and the two of us were on our way to go bowling (in hindsight, probably another outing that was much more fun for me). I felt like the coolest kid around because there I was – a 7 year old with knobby knees sitting in the back of my mom’s old silver Volvo with a teenager. Not realizing my perception of our dynamic was way off, I was flying high. Unfortunately, much like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun. And in this story, the sun is the 90’s sensation Hanson.

The radio was playing a Hanson song that I had never heard before because my CD stack included the soundtrack to Mary Kate & Ashley movies, Rebecca St. James, and the Newsboys. Hanson did not make it through my mothers strict boundaries (praise the Lord she had strict boundaries because the filth that young kids are exposed to is outrageous) (sometimes even I am like “whoa, self, grandma much?” when I hear the things I say about kids and music and brooches). My cousin however, being the older and cooler girl that she was, loved Hanson. When the song began playing she was singing along and bee-bopping in such a way that I knew it would put me in a really nice spot if I showed her that I, too, loved Hanson. Thrilled with the opportunity to show her how much alike we were, my mouth went faster than my brain. I turned to her and said, “I love Huffy too!”

Huffy. Huffy is a brand of bikes. It isn’t the name of a 1997 superstar boy band.

A lame brand of bikes, by the way.

My cousin ROLLED in laughter. She could barely form complete sentences. “HUFFY?! *laughter laughter embarrassing laughter* THEY’RE NOT CALLED *laugher* HUFFY!! IT’S HAN*laughter*SON!!”. It felt like this went on for hours. Her not even being able to handle me, and me trying to will my body to melt into the seat while praying my sweet Father in Heaven would just end me then and there.

I don’t remember a single other thing about that day. Just the horrifying moment when I revealed my true self. I wasn’t cool. I was seven. And that was it.

(another weird thing about cousins is that they have crushes on each other sometimes. I thought this was just my messed up family till I heard a few other similar stories. When I was little I had a crush on a cousin out in California that I had only met maybe twice in my life. I kept the school picture his dad sent to my dad beside my bed like an incredible creep. Then later in life, a cousin up in Ohio who I again had only met a few times, had a crush on me. Being on that side is even creepier.)

What I Wish I Knew in Middle School.

Sometimes, before I remember how much I detested school, I miss still being a young student. Middle school may have had a lot of mean kids, but it didn’t have any bills. I always think that if I was to time travel back to the days of school (which by the way would not be my first choice if I had the chance to time travel, but I mean like if it was unavoidable to be a lanky high schooler again) I would be able to do it so much better. Probably not intellectually, if anything I’d probably be at a disadvantage because I haven’t thought about math or world war II or “To Kill a Mockingbird” in years. But academics aside? Much better.

photo

But I can’t. And ultimately I’m okay with that. But I do have some sweet young girlfriends who are just about to enter into the craziness that is middle and high school. And to these lovely ladies, I have just a few pieces of advice:

1. Despite what “scene” or “style” or “clique” you fit into, make friends with everyone who will have you. They don’t listen to the same music as you? So what. They’re athletes and you can’t be bothered with sports? Fair enough, find something else to laugh about with them and befriend them like crazy. I made it a point to only get to know the other students who wore the same band shirts as me and I know that I absolutely missed out on having lots more friends. And having more friends is always a good thing. Every single person won’t be your best friend, and you can have a group you hang out with every Friday but, still, meet and be nice to every single person you can.

2. “Cool” is absolutely 100% subjective. Those mean kids who roll their eyes at you? They don’t know anything. They’re mean because they’ve seen dozens of movies that teach the idea that to be on top, you have to put others down. They’re mean because they have to prove to their fair weathered friends that they’re indifferent to common human decency. Why is being rude a desirable trait? I have no idea. But for some reason during those years, it is. Don’t pay that nonsense any mind. After high school, no one in the entire world cares about how popular you were. No one cares who you did or did not date, if you went with the cutest boy in school to prom or just your friends (or if you didn’t’ want to go at all and stayed home with your mom), and they especially don’t care about what you wore or what music you listened to or how many sleepovers you went to. So I say, don’t waste your time caring about those things while in school! Take the classes you want to take (and push yourself to do well), wear things that you actually like (oh the myriad of clothing I bought that I didn’t even want…), and smile at everyone even if they scowl back at you. Ultimately, the person people want to be around is the one who smiles. To quote Gandhi, you do you (there’s no way in the world he said that but he might as well have – that’s some good advice). Don’t let the “politics” of cool kids and mean kids and weird kids affect you. I promise, not once in my adult life did someone wait to hire me or be-friend me till after they called up the kids who were popular at my high school to ask them what they thought of me (which is good because I’m sure the response would be, “Who? Kathy?”).

3. Take hard classes. Yes, they’ll fill up more of your time and require many many hours of studying, but doing things just because they’re easy won’t be rewarding. I seriously regret not taking advanced literature classes because that’s something that, now that I’m older, I wish I knew more about. At the time I felt I didn’t have time to read books in the evening, after all I had a very strict and filled schedule of stalking my crush on AIM (Pause: do you know what AIM is? Maybe that’s a mark of my age. Back before facebook and instagram and twitter and all the other stalking- I mean social- networks, we had AOL Instant Messenger. It was like texting, but at the computer and with a stupid screen name. I remember my first screen name was “lilangel” or something equally as lame, only I misspelled “angel” and it was actually “lilangle”. I can’t even. Anyway…). Sitting home at the computer waiting for him to log in, or thinking up a question to message him (so it looked like I needed to message him, it wasn’t that I wanted to) took up a lot of time. I couldn’t squeeze that in with reading “Pride and Prejudice”. But in hindsight, I see that the reading of great novels would have been much more fruitful. He and I didn’t get married anyway and at least I could have known more about Jane Austen.

4. And that brings me to another thing: you’re obviously going to  have crushes on boys. They’re cute and funny and you’ll like them and that’s fine. But don’t, under any circumstance, let having a crush control your life. Don’t schedule your classes around his, don’t spend all night stalking him on facebook, don’t spend hours figuring out the perfect way to word a text to him — real relationships aren’t that hard. Well, real relationships hardly exist at that age (sorry, but it’s true) but that’s beside the point. If a boy likes you, you won’t have to work that hard. And if he doesn’t, as was always the case for me, let that be okay. I liked the same boy for all four miserable years of high school and I shudder at the thought all of that I missed while I was distracted by someone who only ever wanted to be my friend. Instead of sitting around thinking about him, I could have still thought about him a little but also tried taking tennis lessons or joining drama. I should have shrugged it off and enjoyed being his friend instead of trying to trick him into liking me during all of our interactions. By all means, giggle at cute boys, but don’t let that be the biggest priority of your life.

5. Okay this one may be embarrassing, but I’m just being real here: at some point in middle school you’re going to start getting periods and it’s going to be the worst but you don’t need to be embarrassed about being a girl. Boys are going to make stupid jokes about it, but it’s only because they have no idea what is going on and they’re terrified so they’re trying to use humor as a defense. It’s a stupid defense but they don’t know better. Every single girl feels just as weird as you because it feels like everyone can tell what’s happening… but they can’t. Just keep extra things in your backpack, don’t wear white, and if something happens, I promise no one at the office will be grossed out or not let your mom drop off things for you (I speak from experience, real talk).

School is weird. And hard. And some days you’re really going to hate it. But other days you’re going to have so much fun. Just keep your head above the crazy, remember who you are in Christ, and smile at everyone. You’ll be great.

#ChooseTampa

#choosetampacircle

I choose Tampa because I believe it holds architectural gems. I believe there is life and vibrancy here. I believe there is delicious food, beautiful parks, and outrageous potential. There are incredible artists, world famous sunsets, and tremendous culture.

So we’re choosing to take pride in our city and pour into our city. We are sharing with one another our unique perspectives of Tampa. Documenting and posting and applauding one another as we share the energy of our home.

If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, follow @choosetampa on instagram, then tag all your tampa gems with #choosetampa. We will feature tagged images, but more than that we will organize art shows with some of the images chosen. In doing so, we will support local tampa business, encourage community, and celebrate art and where we call home.

Tampa is beautiful, let’s choose to take pride in our city.

An Awkward Thing That Happened.

I spend a good part of every each day coming up with fake blog titles. As I clean, as I drink orange juice – constantly trying to get something to stick. Often I will think of little ditties that I’d like to write about that don’t really seem like they would hold much weight on their own. Weird little stories that need to be part of something more.. with a point. After all, I want to be a good writer. I want to write with purpose and give a call to action and stir up some crap.

But sometimes I can’t.

So here’s the story of an awkward thing that happened to me.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I wasn’t outrageously cool in middle school. I wasn’t outrageously anything, except maybe gawky. And it’s weird that I wasn’t and I’ll tell you why: I spent most Friday nights eating Chinese food with my parents at home and they always said I was a riot. Seriously like, my mom could. not. stop. saying how much fun I was. So why those punk kids I went to school with couldn’t see that was beyond me. But they couldn’t. And to quote my dad, that was their loss. If I had a mic in my hand right now, I would drop it.

But then I’d have to pick it back up because I’m not finished with my story and that’d be a weird thing to have to watch, me fumbling with a microphone cord which I’ve undoubtably gotten myself tangled up in.. I digress.

Here’s a question though, can anyone REALLY be cool in middle school? I know that lots of tiny instagram middle school babies think they’re cool, but can such a thing actually exist in the three most bumbling years of adolescence? No. There’s no such thing. Not only because cool is subjective and all that mumbo jumbo, but also because no one in middle school knows anything about anything. Except maybe like Justin Bieber and how to use way too many hashtags. No offense. But seriously. It’s not an insult, it’s just science.

Problem was, no one told the mean kids at my school that the “coolest” middle schooler is, well, still just an awkward middle schooler. They seemed to very much believe that their braces were somehow acceptable while everyone else with braces was a dweeb. Middle school logic. They swore a lot, thought no one knew they were in middle school when they attended the high school football games (no you guys literally everyone knew), wore clothes from aeropostale*, and were my nightmare.

*Now, okay. Obviously not every person who wears things from aeropostale is mean. I’m just saying that at my middle and high school, the students who were the rudest tended to wear clothes that sported the store name as the main design (why are people paying so much money for these clothes? I’ll staple a walmart ad to a shirt and give it to you for free – same thing). True, for every mean aeropostale wearing classmate I knew, there was a nice aeropostale wearing classmate. Wear whatever you want. Just be nice.

I digress again.

So one weekend when I was in 6th grade, I went to the mall with a new friend. Now I’m sure that sounds like a given, what mall isn’t overrun with middle schoolers every weekend? But I honestly never went in middle school. I didn’t get clothes from the mall, plus that chinese food that my parents picked up wasn’t going to eat itself. But this new friend of mine did go to the mall. She didn’t attend my school, so she had no idea how lame I was and I certainly wasn’t going to inform her of her mistake.

It was like nothing I had ever seen before. The colors were so bright – store signs and carrousels and window displays. The smell of Auntie Anne’s pretzels wafted through the air as acne faced teeny boppers tried to flirt with one another. Kelly Clarkson’s Miss Independent blasted over the speakers as I stepped foot into an out of this world boutique called “Rave”. Oh how I hope you remember Rave. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist anymore, and really it might as well not.

Under the influence of my new trendy friend, I purchased a shirt that first of all, I just shouldn’t have. Because it made zero sense in general, but especially for me. It was a white shirt with a blue brick wall painted on it. “New York” was written across it in that typical gangster font and then behind it in smaller, but as just as gangster, writing was “Queens”, “Harlem”, and “The Bronx”. Because what white suburban 6th grade girl DOESN’T find her style defined by New York themed street graffiti? I know I sure did. True, it didn’t really go along with a single other piece of clothing that I owned from K Mart, but this shirt was the epitome of ME.

I wish, OH HOW I WISH, I could re-watch the moment I showed my mom that shirt when I got home. She must have been so confused. That poor woman..

I was so excited to wear that shirt on Monday. “This shirt will change everything!” I thought, “People will finally see how interesting and charismatic I am! And hey! Maybe they’ll stop making fun of my clothes!” I had a lot of hope in people and their ability to change opinions back then. So naive.

Monday morning on the bus, I got a few compliments. ..From people who were always nice to me anyway, but still. They knew a cool shirt when they saw it. I felt it was a great start for what was obviously going to be the best day of my entire middle school career.

The bus arrives. I gather my things, raise my head high, and step off. Not even 10 feet from the bus and I get stopped. “Ah, someone wants to know where I got this awesome shirt. To be expected”, I think to myself. I turn around. Instead of an eager fashionista dying to know how I dressed so cool, I see probably the meanest girl in my middle school. Wearing the same shirt. And scowling at me. I remember her exact words on account of I wanted to die:

“You need to wear a sweater or something today because I bought this shirt to impress and you’re going to ruin everything if you’re wearing it too.”

________________

And that’s the story of how I was a spineless idiot and wore a sweater all day so some mean 13 year old girl wouldn’t yell at me.

 

330 Days in Memphis, As Told By Instagram.

Memphis

Bike rides, patios, hiking, bbq, autumn leaves, spring flowers, new friends, new places. You guys, Memphis is a really cool city. Memphians love their city — they believe in it, they root for it, they invest in it. I have never lived somewhere where the people were so enthusiastic about their home. Memphis is one of the poorest cities in America, but I think it’s culture is one of the richest.

Sometimes it was really hard for me to be in Memphis, so far away from those Florida shores I know so well, but despite every moment I missed my family so terribly, I’m so glad that I got the chance to experience a city such as Memphis.

Ya’ll, I believe in Memphis too. And I’m so thankful to have laughed and ran and dreamed and definitely eaten in this city.

IMG_1765

IMG_1789
Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.48.28 PM
Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.48.59 PM
Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.49.20 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.50.27 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.50.45 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.50.55 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.51.11 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.51.23 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.51.32 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.51.46 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.52.15 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.53.08 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 12.55.41 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.26.26 PM

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.26.47 PM

Thanks for being such a graceful host, 901 ♡

My Undying Love for Inconsequential Things, and Why Publix Rules.

I am an above average passive person. I don’t take strong stances in politics, current events, American Idol, the Superbowl, or the cat vs. dog debate. Sometimes it’s because I don’t understand enough to form a solid opinion (lookin’ at you, anything that happens on CNN), sometimes I just don’t care (any sport of all time), and sometimes I don’t want to step on other people’s toes. Being passive it’s easy. Which makes sense because it’s very similar to being lazy, which is the easiest thing of all time. In fact, being passive is 100% easier than having an opinion of every little thing. I know people who have opinions on every little thing and first of all… ugh. Second of all I am positive they are exhausted all. of. the. time.

There are a few things that have escaped my passivity, however, and instead found their way into a zone of “die hard dedication”. It seems there isn’t much of a middle ground, just indifference and then lunacy. I have very strong (perhaps irrational) opinions about the direction toilet paper should go in the bathroom (over, you fool), which of Rory Gilmore’s boyfriends was actually the best match for her (if you dare suggest Dean or Logan I will scream), and, of course, which grocery store chain is obviously the best in existence. I give you: Publix.

publix tampa 1959 a pleasantfamilyshopping

Like a good Floridian, I grew up loving Publix. I was raised with strong values and taught to appreciate this more-than-just-a-market at a very young age. I have fond memories of running errands with my mom, getting a free sprinkle cookie in the bakery just for bein’ a kid, and grabbing some chicken tenders that were just so good we’d eat them as soon as we’d get in the car instead of waiting till we arrived home.

We had a really long and happy relationship together. We got lucky, Publix and I. Over 20 years of blissful grocery shopping together.

Then something tragic happened.

Tragedy and love go hand in hand all too often. In The Notebook, Allie didn’t get Noah’s letters. Maria and Tony’s love in West Side Story was no match for the bad blood between rival gangs. And of course poor, sweet, beautiful Jack Dawson turns into a human popsicle before he and Rose can spend the rest of their lives together riding horses. For Publix and I? I moved to Memphis.

I’ll never forget the day I first stepped foot inside a Kroger. You can’t forget heartbreak that big – that real. Everything was so… blue. And dirty. And wrong. “Yeah but Kroger is really cheap!” you may say, but you know what? Kroger makes me feel really cheap.

 

WHY PUBLIX IS BETTER THAN KROGER :

Publix_Logo-300x240

First of all, the logo. Publix has chosen a nice, minimalistic font choice with a great color scheme: green and white. Simple. Aesthetically pleasing. Bravo. And that tag line? So true, so true. 

Then you have Kroger which is just like.. what is happening. I can’t even with that font choice and the weird swoosh coming from the “K” and “g”. And nice try, but I’m not fooled into thinking your logo is three dimensional so you can cool it with that fake sheen and glisten. And is that tag line done in “Impact”? What is that, windows 95 clip art status? Stop.

kroger-logo-mylitter-one-deal-time-84577

.. what?

Publix-BOGO-300x126

Next there’s the fact that in order to get sale prices at Kroger you have to have a Plus Card. Which means one more awful thing to take up room in your wallet or ruin the integrity of your key ring. Know what you need to take advantage of all of Publix’s wonderful sales? NOTHING. JUST PICK UP YOUR BEAUTIFUL BOGO’S AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT SWIPING ANY DUMB CARD.

(Kroger doesn’t even have BOGO’s. Can you imagine the horror?)

Even more important than logo choices, Publix is so clean. Outkast probably wrote “So Clean” about Publix because I’m just sayin, “ I’m just so fresh, so clean (So fresh and so clean clean) ” is the epitome of this sweet grocery store. And Kroger? Not so much ya’ll, not so much. Are there exceptions to this rule? Sure. I have been in a Kroger that didn’t make me feel like I needed to drench myself in hand sanitizer, but a clean Kroger is truly the exception and not the rule. Here is an actual photograph of the Publix I shopped at in Florida and the Kroger I shop at in Memphis:

Publix_FortMyers_FL*304dump

Crazy, right? But that’s the reality.

The list goes on: Publix brand items are INCREDIBLE, Kroger brand is just.. not even. Publix employees are kind and wonderful and beautiful but Kroger cashiers are mad that they’re working somewhere so dirty and therefore they’re grumpy. Again, are there exceptions?  Maybe. But I’ll tell you what, I have bagged my own groceries 90% of the time shopping at Kroger and that nonsense just wouldn’t fly at Publix.

Publix also has the most delicious subs in the entire world. Subway, Lenny’s, and whoever else are just playing for second because Publix has KILLED IT. Kroger doesn’t even make subs that I’ve ever seen, and that’s good. Because it’d be a waste of time. And taste like poop.

enhanced-buzz-25824-1356756645-0

I hope you can hear the angels choir singing in this photo. They even make subs with their chicken tenders WHICH WILL BLOW YOUR MIND.

The only defense I’ve ever heard people try to give for Kroger is that it’s cheaper than Publix. But you know what? That’s not always true. Some items? Sure. All items? No way. Especially when you go off the weekly adds. And those BOGO’s really add up, ya’ll.

So let’s review:

Untitled-1

Throwback Thursday & How I Understood Nothing at the Age of Nine.

You know how radio stations play awesome throwbacks every so often? Real classic 1990’s jams? I love when this happens and I always turn it up, sing really badly really loudly (the only way I know how), and for two minutes remember all the times I sang said song with my bff’s on the way to Girl Scout meetings.

I’m sure you’ve also experienced listening to these throwbacks and suddenly realizing, “hmm… this song is incredibly dirty.” It’s just that now that we’re (sorta, somewhat) adults, a lot of these songs take on entirely new meanings — i.e., the meaning they were always intended to have but we didn’t get because we were 12. Frankly I’m really surprised at how much vulgarity I was hearing without noticing. Seriously like, so much. I know now that so many times when the radio was on my mother must have been praying, “please don’t let her notice what they’re saying. Or worse, ask me about it”.

These surprises aren’t even always vulgar and sexual — I loved Destiny’s Child’s Jumpin Jumpin without even knowing what an Armani suit was. Or why “ballas” with their “pockets full grown” were a desirable acquaintance to, um, acquire. Yet I sang the words and be-bopped along like I wasn’t a 12 year old white girl from the suburbs who wouldn’t have her first kiss for 5 more years and wouldn’t go out dancing for another 10.  I also didn’t get the song was more or less about cheating on your significant other. But I digress.

Tlc-noscubs2

A few nights ago as I was driving home from work I heard one of the most favorite throwbacks of all time — TLC’s No Scrubs. And I laughed. And laughed and laughed thinking of that little white girl singing along with this song. With this one, I didn’t just miss the meaning of it – I had NO IDEA what they were talking about. I would sing it with my friends because they were singing it but the whole time I was thinking, “I have no idea what I am saying. These are just strings of words that make zero sense to me based off of the environment and experiences I have thus far in my life encountered.” Plus I was 9 years old when that song came out and literally still played with Barbies.

Here is No Scrubs according to 9 year old me:

A scrub is a guy who thinks he’s fly 

[at that time in my life I could only assume  “fly” meant picked first for stuff in PE class. Epitome of popularity, yeah?]

And is also known as a buster

[a what?]

Always talkin’ about what he wants 
And just sits on his broke ass 

[on the radio this was edited, but I can remember the day a girl in the cafeteria told me “the a word” was in there and I was horrified]

So no, I don’t want your number (no) 
I don’t want to give you mine and (no) 

[my number was still my parents house number, so..]

I don’t want to meet you nowhere (no) 

[my mom would have to drive so that’d be weird. Also in my mind the only place you met people was the mall so that was always my mental image]

I don’t want none of your time and (no)
I don’t want no scrub 

[still not sure what “scrub” is]

A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging out the passenger side
Of his best friend’s ride

 [whoa. old enough to have a friend who drives? I can’t even]

Trying to holler at me 

[literally I assumed this meant he was picking on her to pretend he didn’t like her. Because that’s what was up in elementary school]

I don’t want no scrub
A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging out the passenger side
Of his best friend’s ride
Trying to holler at me

But a scrub is checkin’ me 
But his game is kinda weak 

[is he bad at sports? we have that in common]

And I know that he cannot approach me 

Cuz I’m lookin’ like class and he’s lookin’ like trash

[Hey hey, nice to know my outfit from Walmart looks classy]

Can’t get wit’ no deadbeat ass 

[two scandals in one song? I can’t bear the thought]

Frankly, I like my interpretation a little better. It’s about a boy who thought he was popular but wasn’t really. He hangs out with people who are much older than he is, since they’re driving and all, and tries to pick on girls to get them to like him. Usually by shouting and hollering, even though that’s incredibly impolite. But homegirls are lookin’ good in their Walmart sneakers and that gives them the courage to say, “no way am I going to ask my mom to take me to the mall to hang out with you!”

My Love / Hate Relationship With the “Cat Eye”.

Here’s a short list of things I think are prettier than an expertly executed “cat eye” look:

1. A baby’s laughter

2. The film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

3. That’s it.

Because seriously, I think the cat eye is the prettiest make up trend or style or whatever you’d call it in the world. It’s just so petite, yet bold. So feminine yet saucy. Maybe it’s so beautiful in my mind because bombshells like Audrey Hepburn (my girl) and Adele rock the cat eye hardcore [ Sidenote: it annoyed me a lot when Adele first got famous because then when people learned that my middle name was, also, Adele they’d say “oh, like the singer?” which felt a little like having my thunder stolen. But I’m not so bitter that I can’t acknowledge she’s a babe with the voice of an angel ]. I know nothing about make up and honestly wear it only 14% of the time, so take my opinion with a gigantic grain of salt, but I say the cat eye look is the prettiest. So there.

Image

 

Pinterest seems to agree. And the women who use Pinterest seem to agree. I know this because I have searched “cat eye” on Pinterest and found literally a zillion tutorials and pictures of this lovely liner. Tricks and tips and “three easy steps for the perfect cat eye” and how you haven’t lived until you’ve made your eyes look like the eyes of a furry domestic animal.

But here’s the thing. I’ve tried… so many of these. So many. And you know how many times I’ve actually left the house with eyeliner I was confident about? Maybe three. Three times, but you can be sure the lines were even zero of those times.

I know women who are masters at eyeliner. They just swoosh and look perfectly feline-tastic. It’s not an impossible thing to accomplish. Pinterest is full of tutorials because somehow, somewhere, women can keep their hands still enough to create the prettiest little wings. It is literally a mystery to me how this is possible, kind of like how some weirdo people can bake cookies without eating them. I just don’t get it. But I take comfort in the fact that these tutorials exist, because THAT MEANS I’m not the only woman who is incapable of understanding something as stupidly simple and, frankly, unimportant as eyelinerThere are obviously other women requesting these tricks and tips, hoping maybe the missing piece will finally be revealed to them. These women are my soul sisters.

I have attempted the cat eye so many hundreds of times, only to give up in frustration with a sink full of q-tips covered in eye liner and gigantic dark smudges on my temples. But I keep trying, so sure that having perfect wings will change my life. Until then,

 THE CAT EYE, A NARRATIVE:

“Hm, I got ready faster than I thought I would this morning. Since I have time maybe I’ll try the cat eye. It’s been two days since I tried it last and absolutely nothing has happened since then that would possibly make me think I could accomplish this task.. so obviously this time it will be perfect.” 

begins stretching eyelid farther than it should ever be stretched

lines the lid

“Yikes, that’s too thick.”

wipes off liner with q-tip

tries again

“I mean, that’s better I guess.”

already mildly defeated, extends liner beyond lid out into a wing, as a million tutorials have instructed

“Okay. This is good.”

begins to think this might be the magic morning when every things falls into place

begins thickening wing

“I look like Amy Winehouse. No. I can’t even.”

wipes off wing with another q-tip

tries again

“Ehh, okay.”

realizes this probably won’t be the magical morning everything falls into place

attempts to duplicate the good-not-great right wing on the left eye

“So then, just gotta do the same thing on the left eye. I guess I just kinda.. twist my wrist..”

fails

uses the a third q-tip to start over

and again

creates a very sub par, acceptable cat eye wing

stands back and looks straight into the mirror

realizes one wing is aimed north east while the other is straight west

Ugggggggggggggh this isn’t going to work.”

gets a fourth q-tip and wipes off the west facing wing

realizes all the extra time has since been used up

is now late

angrily wipes off liner from other eye

stomps out of bathroom.

-fin-