Thursday, October 31, 2013

Life Lessons

Well folks, I've learned some things.

First of all, let me make it clear I have no wish to divulge the events that inspire these reflections. Please do not inquire. Suffice it to say, some things have taken place (some past, some present) that have made me realize the following:

1. What people think of me does not define who I am or what I am capable of.
     If I let other people's opinions be my standard, I will never realize my full potential. I have so much I want to do in my lifetime, so many goals to reach. I refuse to let the puzzlingly unfeeling nature of others stand in my way. On the other hand, it's good to hang onto those people who truly believe I'm way better than I actually am; these people keep inspiring me to be better, even when I think I'll never be the person I want to be.

2. Not all relationships are going to last a lifetime.
    It hurts me to say it. My personality type doesn't like any sort of change, and the people I love become embedded in my heart. So when one of them leaves, I bleed. But I know now that some people just aren't going to be there forever, and if they want to leave, I have to let them. I have to let them, and not hold it against them. And I'm okay with that.

3. Even adults can act like school kids on a playground.
    It's so baffling to witness these instances! It's amazing, truly, how some people resort to childish methods to deal with their problems, no matter who they hurt in the process. I've seen this all my life, but it still amazes and saddens me.

4. No matter what I do, someone will think the worst of me.
    It's true. There will always be that one person out there determined not to like me. But I really can't say too much because there are a few people who I genuinely do not like no matter how hard I try (I'm just being open...). I feel bad about it, but some personalities just don't mesh. (I can be (and am) pleasant and civil to these people, for the record.) The point is, I can still be the person I want to be no matter what those determined to dislike me do to stand in my way and bring me down.

5. No matter what I do, someone will think the best of me.
    And I don't deserve that. But I'm so incredibly thankful for it! I have so much to thank my parents for, but their never-ending support and unconditional love is pretty near the top of the list. Etienne, too, is a great inspiration. He may not always agree with what I want to do, but he lets me go ahead with it anyway, because he believes I will find the right path and succeed no matter what.

6. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others around you won't feel inferior.
    Marianne Williamson said that. Actually, she said there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others will not feel insecure around you. Essentially the same. Etienne found that quote a few weeks ago and shared it with me. I chewed on it for a few days, then decided it was true. There is nothing enlightened about holding myself back or hiding what I'm capable of so people around me will feel better about themselves. We all have our own talents and gifts, and we all ought to use them to our fullest potential. I may be better at something than someone else, but I shouldn't hide that. (Shouldn't flaunt it either). Likewise, that person is better at something than I am. Let it shine! Hone your talents to perfection!

7. The Paradoxical Commandments are some good rules to live by.
    If you've never heard of them, take the time to read them. They're very true, and very inspiring. Sometimes when I get discouraged, one of them will pop in my mind. It's so helpful to know I'm not the only one, and I can overcome.

8. I will be a much happier person if I accept the apology I will probably never get.
    Have you ever thought about that? It's so easy to hold a grudge and harbor bitterness, but I'm the one impeding my happiness when I do that. At some point in your life, someone will hurt you. I hope they apologize, but that doesn't always happen. Sometimes they don't even know they've hurt you. Some people aren't sorry for whatever it was. But no matter what happens, no matter what that other person says/does or doesn't say/do, I can forgive. It is my Christian responsibility to forgive. But, like all God-given mandates, it's for my own good. A lot of people have a hard time swallowing their pride, myself included, but we'd be so much happier if we did! I'm learning to accept the apology I haven't gotten and forgiving the slights I have received.

9. Family is such a blessing.
    My family and I got to spend the weekend together (the first time since I don't even know when!) this past weekend. Now there are some people who will always love me and inspire me to be better. They will always encourage me to realize my dreams and reach my goals. And they'll do whatever they can to help me along the way. I am so thankful for the blessing of family! I need to appreciate and utilize it more.

10. Making myself vulnerable is necessary to build valuable relationships.
      I have to be willing to open up and let people in - knowing they could walk out whenever they want to - if I'm going to have any relationships that mean something. And some will walk out. But some will stick with you to the end, come what may. Those are the people I truly cherish.

The more time passes, the more I cherish the good in other people. I love the people who are compassionate to others, who focus more without than within. Sometimes I judge too quickly or too harshly the characters of people I come in contact with. Truth is, we could all use a little mercy.

Things change as time passes. The people who genuinely care about you will be revealed, and you'll know where to place your greatest investments. These have been some painful lessons to learn, but I'm smarter and stronger because of them. I hope maybe these words can help someone else swimming in the same sea.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I remember in grade school how we would always be asked our favorites. I guess they were trying to help us shape our identity or something, but it really wasn't very helpful to me. I'm terrible at picking favorites. I guess my heart is just too full of love! I really couldn't tell you my favorite food, my favorite memory, my favorite ice cream flavor, my favorite shirt, my favorite school subject, my favorite Bible verse... I have lots of favorites, which I guess negates the label "favorite." But in the last few weeks, I have learned that I FINALLY have a true favorite!

I have a favorite season. My favorite season is fall!

I didn't know it till it came this year. I always look forward to it, but I never realized I looked forward to it a little more than the other seasons. I guess I have Tulsa to thank for that! If it wasn't so unearthly hot in the summer, the cooling off of fall wouldn't mean as much to me. But this year I realized just how much I love all the perks of fall. Here's what's the bees knees about fall in my life:

1) It smells good. I was walking out of Walmart several weeks ago, and though it was still in the 90s, I could smell fall. It's a sweeter smell, and it becomes more poignant as the air cools down. It smells cleaner, and I love that!

2) The leaves change to brilliant colors and it's an artistic party in the treetops. And then they fall and make a beautiful blanket over the dying grass. It's spectacular!

3) Football. I lovelovelove football. I know not everyone is a football kinda person, and I respect that, but I love watching football, and playing football (not well, mind you), and cheering like crazy over football. While I love watching any football, my favorite team is by far the Bengals. I'm from Cincinnati, what do you expect! I know they're not the best team in the NFL, but they're the best in my book!

4) Hot chocolate/hot coffee. I drink hot tea year-round, but I really don't enjoy hot chocolate or hot coffee unless it's chilly outside. I suppose that's because I'm not really a social coffee drinker; I drink it when I need the caffeine, and I enjoy it. But in the hot temperatures, I want the frozen coffee. And it'd just be weird to drink hot chocolate in any other season. My mom makes the best homemade hot chocolate in the world.

5) Sweaters and long sleeves. I usually don't look very good in sweaters, but I still love how they feel. Oh, and there's nothing better than snuggling down into a giant hoodie! While watching football and drinking hot chocolate...

6) Thanksgiving! The best holiday in the world. I won't go into that, because I pretty much covered it in this other blog post...

7) Fall is the slow-down period before the wintertime nap. Summer is always crazy busy, full of fun and exciting stuff. But it's also hard to be outside in the summer and enjoy it because of the heat. Usually we run from air-conditioned car to air-conditioned home/building. Fall is the time to slow down, take nice walks in the beautiful weather, have some quality time with your family, and just enjoy the simple pleasures before disappearing into your heated home for the winter months. I enjoy that.

8) I'm not really into the pumpkin drink craze, and I'd take apple pie over pumpkin, but I adore pumpkin cookies. With cream cheese frosting. Oh my... The best things ever. Totally bad for you, but oh so delicious.

9) Fall decorations. They're great! Cute little turkeys and pilgrim children in their Protestant clothing. How adorable! And I really love the pumpkin-pine cone-burlap-acorn-fall leaf stuff I see a lot. I haven't done any decorating (we're trying to move so it'd just be more stuff to pack), but I dream of the day when I can pull out my own little pumpkins and turkeys to tell everyone "We do fall right in this house!"

10) It's the only season I can rake a big pile of leaves and jump in it. The best part is, no one thinks any less of you for playing in leaves no matter how old you are! There's a video floating around on Facebook right now of a Husky playing in leaves. It reminds me so much of my dog Ethel in Ohio. She would get just as crazy about leaves! I miss that girl. Fall is her favorite season, too.

So. That's why fall is the best! I fully intend on making the most of these few weeks of chilly weather before the Oklahoma ice storms roll in. Happy fall to all of you!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Wallet: A Museum of My Life

Hey guys!

It's been awhile. I don't want to write y'all if I don't have anything to say, and I haven't had much to write about lately... Honestly, I've been struggling a lot with contentment. I want to be at a different place in life, and it's frustrating that I'm not there. I'm mostly talking about school; both my degree and Etienne's. I know I'll look back and it'll feel like the blink of an eye, but right now, the day to day can drag along. There are so many things I want to do with my life, but can't find the time for because school takes precedence. That's what frustrates me. I say all that to say this: yesterday Etienne asked why I hadn't written lately and that's basically what I told him. And he reminded me I need to find the joy in the little things every day. And he's right.

So today, I celebrated my 21st birthday. It's actually tomorrow, but Etienne let me open my presents and eat my cheesecake (which he made all by himself) today. It was a pretty good haul! My Disney movie collection increased, which makes me happy. And I got a new wallet! I've had my old one for probably six years now and it's pretty worn. So I got to go through every thing in the old wallet and condense it into my new wallet, which won't hold as much junk (a fine quality for my sentimental, pack rat tendencies).

I couldn't believe some of the things I found in there! All sorts of ancient artifacts from the recent years of my life. Receipts galore from as far back as 2010; I kept them for the various memories tied to them. But today, most of them got thrown out, because those memories really don't mean much anymore. They're nice, don't get me wrong, but they're in my noggin. I don't need a memento in my wallet, as well. And cleaning out that wallet taught me an important life lesson.

I learned it's good to clean out your life every once in a while. How much stuff do I have stashed in secret corners of my life that I don't even know about, but stumble across every now and then... And why? I went through a phase in life where I was afraid of forgetting. I didn't want to forget any detail of my life, no matter how small. I wanted to know the kind of person I was at age 13 when I'm age 90, so I started keeping a journal and collecting random little things that mean absolutely nothing to anyone else. I wanted to know the people I used to be close to and the things that were so important then. I still want to know those things. But I'm not afraid of forgetting anymore. Because I know that I have so many memories to make ahead of me, and I couldn't possibly store everything. In fact, I don't think it's healthy to store everything. It's good to clean out your life and make room for the here and now.

I do think it's important to cherish memories and old photographs or trinkets or whatever it is that sends you back to way back when. But I don't need to be as fastidious as I've been. I don't need to carry the weight of my past along with the weight of every day and the weight of an uncertain future. Memories are great, but they belong in the past. They belong in the secret chest way back in the closet that you dust off only every once in awhile to smile over the hidden treasures within. They belong in the heart. Not the wallet.

I will say this though: there's something to be said for being so in love with life that you find something special in a receipt or an old pen or a candy wrapper. I need to hang onto that love without all the stuff.

I've been missing Ohio a lot lately, and I know that adds to my melancholy. I don't know how to get over that one, but I'm continually working on it. There's just nothing like your childhood home, wherever that may be.

Much love to you all,

Monday, May 13, 2013


Dear friends,

I have neglected this correspondence for some time now! That was not my intention, I just didn't have time to write with the kind of semester I had. It's over now (hallelujah!) and I can focus on more important things again. Like keeping in touch with the people I care about!

I wrote the following around March, I believe, but didn't post it 'cause it just didn't come out exactly like I wanted it to. But rediscovering it today, I think it expresses well enough what I'm trying to say. I hope there are some out there who can relate to me on this subject! I pity the person who does not know the joy of a hymn.

"I have always loved hymns.

Hymns are Sunday mornings; the golden sunshine shining through the church windows. They are healing, and they are very much a part of me. For as long as I can remember, hymns have been my favorite kind of song. I pretty much enjoy any kind of music, especially the music that brings me closer to God. But it seems no other music will draw me nearer, still nearer to Him than the hymns I have known since before I was born.

Life is full of ups and downs. During the downs, hymns have always been my solace, my comfort, my knowledge that God is real and taking care of me. "Abide With Me" can make silent tears stream down my face in times of trial, but there is real comfort in the beautiful words and music. During the ups, it is hymns that quiet my exuberant spirit, and remind me that there is so much more to life than living for myself and pleasure. The music takes my exuberance and cultivates it into pure joy of being alive and living for God. Just a closer walk with Thee... Grant it, Jesus, is my plea.

I confess I haven't been as strong spiritually as I need to be and want to be in recent months. It bothers me to feel like I am drifting. Not away from God, but not toward Him either. Just drifting. So distracted by the cares of life. School and work have been my only focus since January, and my spiritual self has suffered. It's taken me this long to realize how starved I am. Isn't that how it is, though? Our focus on one thing blinds us to all else. Then you wake up one day and realize part of you, the part you've neglected, is hurting.

Then tonight, as I was laying in bed, the old hymns started coming back to me. "Abide with me, fast falls the eventide, the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide..." I can sing only one part, but my mind and heart sang the others; the moving alto and tenor, the solid bass. In that moment, I felt again the reality of God. There is a God, He is alive. Abide with me, Lord, even when I fail you. Don't give up on me.

I am ashamed of my lack of spiritual growth. I am thankful for music bringing me back when I stray.

No words can express the power of music. Music cannot be explained; it must be felt with the heart and soul. So often the old familiar strains of "Blessed Assurance" and "In the Sweet By and By" have been the motivation to change, to grow, to press on. I have so many wonderful memories from growing up with the congregation in Goshen, Ohio, but none sweeter to me than the Sunday mornings when the sunbeams shone brilliantly through the windows while the congregation sang in perfect harmony, "Be still and know that I am God..." And Grandpa Brown would pray his familiar prayer "...We thank thee for this-a-nother Lord's day..."  When I sing those hymns, I am taken back there, to my roots, and my heart is filled with childlike purity.

Of all of God's gifts to the human race, music is among my most favorites. I absolutely cannot wait to sing praise to God with the angels! Heaven will surely be worth it all!"

 I'll be writing again soon. I have a (hopefully) funny story to share about a moment of shame I experienced recently.

Take care!

Much love,

Friday, January 25, 2013


This is a piece I started writing some time ago, but forgot about till last night when I finished it at 1:30 in the morning. I warn you, it's a long one, and might get kinda boring there towards the end, but I really wanted to post it and share my part in the story of one amazing truck. I think it's worth the read. I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I did living them (or maybe not at the time, but I enjoy remembering them now). Cheers!

Tonight, as oftentimes happens these days, I started thinking about Nellie. I was sitting in the Meijer parking lot and suddenly memory after memory of my adventures in Nellie came flooding back to me. I was laughing out loud at the memories of my days with Nellie. She was a good truck, faithful to the end. This is a long overdue tribute to the truck that I despised on sight, then grew to love like a best friend.

Nellie was my truck, my first car, my first taste of teenaged freedom. And Nellie was very… unique. She was practically given to me by an elderly man from church. Fixing cars was a hobby of his since he was very young, and he knew my sixteenth birthday was coming up. I was sort of like a surrogate granddaughter to him and his wife (his wife died a few years before this time), so he wanted to find a car to fix up for me. He asked what kind of car I wanted and I told him a truck. He raised his eyebrows in surprise and said, “A truck, huh?” but didn’t try to talk me out of it. I’ll forever be thankful for that. Then he asked what color I wanted. Of course I told him blue.

A week later he told me he’d found a blue truck for me that he was working on. Soon after that, it was parked in our driveway, where it would sit for nearly a year (I kept putting off getting my license). And as I mentioned before, I hated that truck at first sight. It was a ’94 GMC Sonoma. As in… old, beat up, and boxy. The right side view mirror was actually the mirror of a much smaller car, and had been taped (yes, taped) onto the frame of the truck’s missing mirror. But perhaps worst of all was the color. I cringed every time I saw it. It was blue alright. Bright, BRIGHT neon blue. I felt like I should be handing out sunglasses to everyone that saw it.

I spent the year between getting the truck and getting my license mentally preparing myself and resigning to the fact that this would be my mode of transportation for an indefinite amount of time. Everyone who knew of my distaste for this blinding blue… thing comforted me by saying, “Well, it’ll make you appreciate the car you have after this one dies.” I hoped it was a swift and painful death.
There was much joy on finally getting my license at age 17, but it was with a heavy heart that I began driving the long-dormant truck. Little did I know, I would have some real adventures with it. And I would grow to love it.

I knew its name right away. Nellie. Nellie was the wife’s name of the man who fixed up the truck for me. She was old and gentle in my memory, much like this truck I now found myself the owner of. So Nellie and I began our life together. It was a loud beginning.

Probably my earliest memory of Nellie (well, from the time I started driving her) was the first time I started her. Nellie was LOUD. She roared everywhere she went and I blushed and tried to ignore the turning heads. My friend Jessica and I (she drove a real beater too) learned the art of playing it off like we wanted it to be that loud. You know how we do. But really… I was the girl sitting in the parking lot till it had mostly cleared of people so no one would hear me roar to life. Yes. Yes I did.

I think it was the second or third time I had ever driven Nellie that I went to a school soccer game with my friend Petra. This was one of those occasions where I waited till the parking lot was empty to start my truck. As a side note, I also parked way in the back lot so no one would see my pathetic taped-on mirror. Anyway, as luck would have it, Petra ended up staying really late hanging out in the parking lot talking to Donovan, so I at least had an excuse to wait so long. It was also really good Donovan was there. I’d never driven Nellie at night before and I didn’t know how to turn my lights on. (I know, I know… That’s really pathetic). Turns out there was a strange gray block to the left of the steering wheel that flips. So thank you, Donovan, for teaching me how to turn my lights on.

For the record, both my headlights worked great. But my taillights didn’t. There was a wiring issue that had to be resolved in order for them to work. And in messing with those wires, something got messed with relating to my horn. So then only the left half of the center of the steering wheel honked. You could pound the right half all day long and it wouldn’t make a sound, but if you just brushed the left half, Nellie gave a mighty honk.

I started driving Nellie in late August. It took about two seconds to realize the air conditioning didn’t work. So I went everywhere with the windows down. I quickly learned to have deodorant and a brush in my bag at all times. It was a sweaty, windblown experience every time I got behind the wheel. More than once I almost wrecked when a bee came flying into my window and hit me in the head. It was sweet relief when the weather turned colder and I could drive with the windows up. My heater worked great!

For the first four or so months that I had my license, I prided myself on my bad parking jobs. I don’t know why, but I had absolutely no regard for the white lines painted on the ground giving my truck a temporary home. I especially liked pulling into the nearly-empty school parking lot for band practice and parking diagonally across two or three spaces at once. I like to think Nellie liked it, too. I think she felt like she was on display. By this point in time, I’d learned to embrace her loud color and engine, and let her be what she was. Love comes softly, you know? I’m sure it helped that my dear friend Erika told me she saw me driving one day, and seeing me behind the wheel… It just looked right. The color was cute with me, she said. I will forever be grateful for that compliment. It lessened my hatred.

It was my senior year of high school, but I had chosen to take college courses at UC Clermont instead of going to the high school. As a result, I spent a lot of time alone. In fact, I spent a lot of time in my truck. It was a thirty minute commute to school, where I also worked, and I often ate lunch in there, too. I think so much time alone got me a little on the depressed side. Nellie was there to absorb my secret tears. I think that’s when I really started to love the ol’ girl. She became my refuge at times. I could always count on Nellie to be my obnoxiously loud, very dependable friend. She heard many private conversations with friends, but always kept our secrets.

Somewhere in the middle of winter, my blinker stopped working. It was the strangest thing! I’d push down the blinker handle thingy and it would click, but the light would just stay lit. It wouldn’t blink! So I had to manually blink. No, I didn’t point out the window. I manually clicked that handle up and down, up and down, until I’d turned, or changed lanes. I did this for MONTHS people. And then it just randomly started working again! I called my mom I was so excited! That lasted about a day, and then it quit again. Back to manual blinking. I just smiled and shook my head. Oh, Nellie…

I had my first accident in Nellie. I was at UC, and I’d gone to get my lunch out of my truck between classes, when I noticed there was a parking spot open on the other side of the aisle where I was parked. It was almost a game with me to get the best parking spot possible at all times. So even though I was going to spend more time starting my truck, driving all the way down the aisle and back up the other side, saving myself about five steps walking time, that’s exactly what I did. Yes. This was what I did for fun back then. I think it’s safe to say my life was kind of pathetic. The most pathetic part of all is that I was positively giddy at the prospect of a better parking spot! So giddy, in fact, that I looked both ways before pulling out of my aisle and didn’t see the Jeep coming right by, and promptly pulled out and demolished his driver’s side door with a huge grin on my face. Yes. It happened just like that. The best part of all is that a campus police officer was right behind the guy and saw the whole thing. (I had absolutely no case whatsoever). Turns out the guy I hit was the professor down the hall from my Psych class that I walked past every single day. And the very next day as I walked past (hiding my face as much as possible), I heard him telling another professor about the girl that just plowed out and hit him yesterday. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but laugh then, and I’m CRACKING UP right now. I’d like to add that my Nellie was completely unscathed by the interaction, and left a beautiful blue streak along with the dent on his car. ‘Atta girl! She’s a brick house!

Spring time came, and my mood lifted. The warm weather returned and it was back to my old windows-down-all-the-time-so-you-better-have-deoderant-and-a-hairbrush-handy trick. There was one particularly fine day I remember when I had yet another embarrassing, unwanted, yet highly memorable adventure with Nellie.

I’d pulled out of my driveway, Nellie was her usual loud self, though I thought maybe a little louder than normal. But she seemed to be running fine, so no worries. I got about halfway to school when her decibel output suddenly increased significantly. I was very concerned. I had no idea what to do, but I knew something was definitely wrong. I just kept driving, of course, and listened with increasing panic as Nellie got louder and louder. Instincts told me to watch my rearview mirror. Wouldn’t you know it… As I’m coasting down one long, curving hill, something big and red falls out of the bottom of my truck, and bounces and rolls off the side of the road. Nellie was instantly roaring louder than anything I could compare her too. My mouth gaped open in shock and I just stared at my rearview mirror like, “What just happened?!” But I was going to be late for class if I didn’t keep going, so that’s what I did. And I left it there on the way home. I didn’t want to stop and try to retrieve whatever it was… How humiliating! I told Dad about it the next day, and he told me I needed to get the part, probably my muffler.

So the next day, when I got to the bottom of the hill, I pulled into the vet clinic conveniently and bizarrely stationed there (there’s nothing else around, except the fancy wedding place across the street) and parked. I sat a moment gathering my courage, then began my journey up Mt. Humiliation. It was a farther walk than I’d imagined. There was a bit of field I had to cross before reaching the bottom of the hill, and then I had just the shoulder to walk on. In other words, this little salmon was extremely easy to see trying to swim upstream. And see they did. Probably four or five cars honked and hollered at me while I made my ascension and again descended with the muffler. Unfortunately, these were not angry drivers telling me to grow a brain and get off the road. They were teenaged guys being teenaged guys, honking at a girl. It. Was. Mortifying. But I held my head high, and went on my merry way. Nellie was fixed soon after.

For months before her end, Nellie started this new trick where she wouldn’t start on the first try. I’d turn the key in the ignition, and an angry grinding sound would meet me. Usually by the fourth try, she would come alive. But not always. I was way past being embarrassed by any of her unique features by this time, so all the looks in the parking lot were lost on me. However, it made dramatic exits nearly impossible. This was only a problem when I was running late, or when I was assaulted by a guy trying to sell me his rap CD in the McDonald’s parking lot. Yes. That happened.

Allie Mitchell was in town, so we were hanging out and decided to get some smoothies from McDonald’s (I love their wild berry flavor!). It was dark out as we walked back to Nellie with our delicious purchases, and I noticed a young man trying to sell a CD to a girl in her car a few spaces over. I immediately began praying this would be one of those rare moments when Nellie would start first try and we could make our departure in peace. Well, that didn’t happen. Not only did she not start the first time, she didn’t start the second, or third, or fourth, or fifth, or sixth… I’m not even exaggerating. And of course the guy was at my window after the first try.

It was an extremely awkward conversation for the next five minutes. He tried very hard to get us to give him five bucks for the CD he’d recorded. Allie was freaking out, and I’m pretty sure she was discreetly searching the cab for a knife or a gun to use on the guy if he tried to pull anything on us. While she was doing that, I was madly trying to get Nellie to start while trying to get the guy to disappear. He pointed out very kindly to me that my truck wouldn’t start. Thank you, Captain Obvious. He said it wouldn’t start because I wouldn’t buy his CD. I said, “Why don’t you give us a rap about my truck then? Let’s see how good you are.” So he started rapping. Something about Elizabeth and Allie in the ‘Nati and my truck is blue. Yeah, he rhymed “Allie” with “’Nati” (as in Cincinnati). Wonder of wonders, she started!! I immediately pulled away and ignored his remark that I owed him for getting Nellie to start. Whatevs. I found the whole thing slightly unnerving, and very hilarious, but poor Allie had been legitimately fearing for our lives.

This is where the story gets sad. Nellie began getting sick. My beloved truck just didn’t have it in her anymore. School started again that September, and this year I was going downtown to UC’s main campus. But before we get to the sad stuff, I have just one more memory of my adventures with Nellie. It was the very first week of class. I was still working at the Clermont College branch of UC, and had to go from the main campus out there to work. Well, I was on my way there for the first time, had no idea how to get there, and decided I needed to turn around. I pulled into a parking lot, but I guess I misjudged the turn. I ramped the curb with my back right tire pretty hard.

That’s when the thumping started. I pulled out of the parking lot, my brow furrowed in concern yet again by some new noise coming from Nellie. The thumping got worse, then leveled off at awful. The whole truck was swaying with the thump. I made it just up the hill, and decided I should probably take a look at whatever happened, so I pulled into the nearest neighborhood street. I got out and examined the tire, flat as a pancake. I looked around me and realized… I was in the hood. This is the part of the story where I exclaim an extremely justified,


I quickly got back in the cab, locked the doors, and called my Dad. Dad told me to call Philip, who might be on campus nearby. I got Philip on the phone, who said he’d come find me, and where was I exactly? I don’t know……… Good luck, big brother!

So I waited, and waited, and waited. I watched little children get dropped off. I watched a guy saunter around the corner and come back about fifteen minutes later with a brown bag bulging with something. I soon found out it was a couple of subs, which I tried not to watch him eat. An elderly woman came out of the house I was parked in front of and asked if I needed help. I told her no, my brother was coming. Finally, he showed up, and gave me a Changing Your Tire 101 lesson. The whole thing was watched by a group of unsavory looking characters down the street. I was so glad I had a spare tire, and Philip had the necessary tools. I was back in business minutes later!

Now. Back to the beginning of the end.

Nellie lasted just two weeks on my highway commute to school. In that second week, she overheated on my way to school. This was something I’d never encountered before. My Dad wasn’t in town, so of course I called the next logical person: Etienne. Because my boyfriend who is 800 miles away will really be able to help me out with an overheating truck. (You’ll have to excuse me. I was young and in love. Still am). But anyway, he gave me possible reasons it could be behaving that way (there was something else happening, too, but I don’t remember what). I told my parents about it later, and they told me to just take it easy, we’d start looking for another car (there was just no denying she was on a downward spiral). My mom suggested if it started overheating again to turn on the heater. Some of you may scoff at that, but I had to do it multiple times, and it did work. Nearly burned my feet to crisps, though, with the air right on them.

Eventually Nellie wouldn’t go over 35 mph. I didn’t know what to do. I knew every time I started her might be my last. I did what any girl would do in my situation. I called up my photographer best friend Trish and said, “Can I have a photo shoot with Nellie before she dies?” Being the person she is, Trish loved the idea. We went to Stonelick Lake the next day. Those last few days were probably my most exciting with Nellie. Adrenaline was pumping the entire time. You just never knew when she was gonna go. I drove a nerve-wracking 35 all the way to Stonelick. We took some shots with her parked tailgate to the boat ramp, on a slope.

We decided to leave and take some shots by a field, too, but Nellie wouldn’t start. Not only that, but if I took my foot off the brake, she started rolling toward the lake. I was panicking! I had visions of my truck sinking to the bottom of Stonelick Lake, making headlines all across Goshen. What to do, what to do?? I just kept trying to start her, but it seemed she was really gone this time. Trish and I just stared at each other horrified. To make matters worse, there were some guys waiting to use the boat ramp. I was so embarrassed and considered asking them to push her up the hill. That seemed too cruel to ask of anyone, though. “Hey, can you push my 3 ton truck up this hill for me? Thanks.” Yeah right.

I’m sure it was by the grace of God that she finally started just one more time. I inched my way up the hill ever so gently, inched across the parking lot, crawled out onto the road… I didn’t dare stop at any of the stop signs, I confess. I just didn’t know if I’d get rolling again. And then it happened. She gave it all she had, but that was it. She cut off, and I was stuck there in the middle of the road. There was a convenient little access patch to a field on my left. If I could just get over there somehow!

You’ve probably guessed what comes next. Yes. I asked my friend who was doing this shoot as a favor to me to push my truck over into that field. And ya know what? She did. And then I called my mom, who reminded me that she’d warned me it wasn’t safe to take Nellie out anymore. So then I called my Dad, and he said to leave the truck and ride home with Trish. But Trish and I looked around and realized the sun was perfect and we were in a field, just like we wanted! So being the intelligent beings we are, we took advantage of our good fortune and got those “field shots”.

And I got to have one last awkward, terrifying, yet always memorable adventure with Nellie. While I was standing in the bed of my truck posing, a man in a beat up white work truck slows to a stop, and starts talking to us. He told me how good I looked and asked my name and my age, and I officially freaked out. I gave him my first name, but not my last. Looking back I should have said, “It’s none of your business creep, leave me alone!” But nothing like that had ever happened to me before, and I was flustered. But kids, don’t talk to strangers. Thankfully, he left, but it took several minutes, and I was legitimately afraid. Trish and I beat it out of there as quickly as possible after that. It was a very tense, quiet ride home.

Nellie was towed home later by a bigger pickup, thanks to Brian Burns. She was parked in the same spot she was parked in for that year before I got my license, never to be driven again. It broke my heart to see her out there. Dad found me a new car within the week. I felt like such a traitor pulling up in my new Toyota Corolla (much more practical, but it’s no truck) and parking next to Nellie. It really was hard for me. Dad told me to clean her out, and Nellie was sold to one of James’ friends. I never saw her again.

I was truly upset by the loss of my beloved truck and friend, Nellie. But I had to admit, my new car was a lot better… It actually ran smoothly, it was quiet, it saved me a lot in gas money, and I never had to worry if it was going to leave me stranded somewhere. I was driving it trying to think of what to name it when that occurred to me. I never had to worry with this car. That reminded me of Hakuna Matata. Should I call it Hakuna? No… Matata? No… It’s just not right separated that way. Wait! TIMON! I’ll call it Timon! A more fitting name I couldn’t have chosen. It’s small and tan, just like Timon, and it gives me no worries. Granted, that was two years ago… Now it’s giving me worries. But it’s still Timon. After I named it, we started getting along really well.

Still, he’s not Nellie. I will always remember that obnoxious roar of hers; how she always had some new surprise in store for me; how I got into all sorts of scrapes with her. How I grew up with her. She witnessed some great moments of my life, and I’m so glad I owned her for that brief time. I know it’s weird, but I truly loved that truck. I’d drive her today if I could get her back, even with all her imperfections. To me, she was perfect.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Life Resolutions

Happy New Year everyone! It's day 2 of 2013, and may I just say this year is off to a GREAT start! Etienne and I were at the OKC New Year's Meeting, where we had the pleasure of seeing the entire Burns/Landreman family and the Middick family, as well as many other friends and loved ones. It was a great meeting, very encouraging to me. Yesterday, Etienne and I slept in till eleven, then sat on the couch in our bathrobes for several hours. Out of nowhere and quite suddenly, he jumped off the couch and said, "Let's go for a run!" My body had already decided it was just going to be lazy all day, but a run actually sounded like a good idea. So we took a jog around the neighborhood, 0.6 miles.

Let me just say... a semester plus of eating whatever I wanted, meaning lots of sweets, and no exercise has definitely caught up with me. Mercy. A measley half a mile and I was ready for a breather! So we waited a little while in the house, then took another lap, so we ran a total of 1.2 miles. I use the term "run" loosely. It was faster than a walk, but certainly not anything record-breaking. Anyway, this sort of brings me to the point of this letter.

My New Life Resolutions.

Most people make New Year Resolutions, and that's great, but I want any change I make in my life to be lasting. So I prefer to think of it as a New Life Resolution. Etienne and I had a family meeting a few weeks ago determining our goals for next semester, things we want to work on in every aspect of our lives, and several of those things have become my New Life Resolutions.

Here they are, in no particular order...

1. Run at least one lap around the neighborhood everyday. I had decided I would run at least three times a week at the family meeting, because I wanted to set a goal I knew I could achieve even when laziness and lack of motivation is factored in. But Etienne encouraged me yesterday to go with one lap everyday, and since it's not a huge time commitment by any means, I agreed. It'll just be a matter of doing. I'm completely capable, and I do have enough time in the day. I just have to do it.

2. I want to lose weight, and keep it off. I know you're probably all thinking "You don't need to lose weight!" and you're right, according to the BMI chart. But I know weight gain is a slippery slope, and I need to start being responsible about it now instead of waiting till it's a real problem. I have gained unnecessary pounds since the summer, and I don't like it. Even though my weight is technically normal, I know my body fat percentage is not. That's what I want to change. So, my goal is to lose five pounds by March 1st. This really won't be hard to do if I keep up with exercising and just cut back on sweets and junk food.

3. A few weeks ago, just after that family meeting I mentioned, I wrote a letter on this blog talking about a challenge I was setting for myself. I call it the Proverbs 31 Challenge. I was feeling "moody" at the time of publication, and facebook wasn't showing it as being posted, so I just deleted it entirely in frustration. I'm still not sure why. But, what I said in that letter still stands. Let me reiterate now.

I'm willing to bet most, if not all, Christian women have heard of the Virtuous Woman talked about in Proverbs 31, and read it for themselves. I thought this was a famous passage that most men knew about too, but I have since learned I am wrong about that, which disappoints me. It seems like this passage should be important to men too, since it's a mother telling her son what kind of wife he should be looking for. Anyway, I have had a couple people I love dearly tell me that the woman described in these verses is "unattainable" and an "impossible standard." I'm sorry, but I just don't agree. When I read those verses, I don't see a impossible standard; I see a woman who, when you get right down to it, is just a good person and a hard worker in everything she does. What's so unattainable about that?

In thinking about that, I decided I wanted to do what I call a Proverbs 31 Challenge. These are specific ways a woman can hone a virtuous character, ways God has detailed. He's given us a road map to virtuosity! I want to be a virtuous woman in God's eyes. I want to be a wife to Etienne whose worth is far above rubies. So, my plan is to read Proverbs 31, the verses about the virtuous woman, and go verse by verse mastering each character trait until it is a fixed part of me. Obviously I'm not going to take each verse literally (I won't be searching for wool and flax), but I think there is a principle in each verse that can be taken and applied, a pearl of wisdom whose value cannot be priced. I want to examine a verse at a time, discover its meaning for me today, and work at it till I've mastered it, then move on to the next verse. There's no time limit on this; it's a life transformation, and I'll work till I succeed. I'm sure I'll need to constantly be reminding myself of all the virtues I might think I've mastered throughout the whole course of my life.

So that's my Challenge in a nutshell. If anyone would like to join me in this challenge, please let me know! I'd love to have someone I could study this with, who goes through the same challenges with me, and someone to be accountable to.

4. I want to start writing a book. I've had three different ideas floating around in my head for literally five or six years, if not longer, but I've never set pen to paper on any of them. In fact, it's taken me so long to work up the courage to try that I won't even be using pen and paper anymore! But last night, Etienne was reading a book, and I had nothing else pressing to tend to, so I told him I was going to start writing a book, and left the room. He immediately stopped reading and called after me, "Wait! Wait! That's awesome! Are you for real? Come back here and tell me your idea! What are you writing about?"

Honestly, I was blown away by his intense interest and support of me writing a book. I never expected such a response, such genuine enthusiasm for it, but it was wonderful! As time goes by and more life experiences come at me, I become ever increasingly aware of how important it is to have family. A family who loves you and gives you support and encouragement in all you do is truly priceless. I'm thankful Etienne is that way for me. I'm thankful looking back at all the years my parents were that way for me. Where would I be if they had not always encouraged me to be better than I am, and believed that I am better than I am?

The New Year holiday is a particularly emotional one. We say goodbye to another year and all the experiences therein become solidified as mere memories. Perhaps something extremely significant happened that year, and giving a definitive end to the year gives more of a definitive end to worrying or focusing on  whatever it was that changed your life. It forces us to realize time goes on. No matter what else happens, until God says its over, time goes on. And the New Year gives us hope. It gives us hope that this year will be better; that we'll start being the person we want to be, that we'll work harder and love sweeter than ever before.

For me, I got married and I moved twelve hours from home. I learned that it will always be home to me, though I may never live there again. I have gone from hating Oklahoma to being okay with it. I think this New Year has helped me to see once and for all that my life is here now; here in Tulsa, with Etienne. Tulsa may not be my favorite place in the world, but being by Etienne's side is. And wherever we may go, wherever life takes us, if it's with him, then I'm home. So for me, I'm going to start keeping the house a little cleaner, watch a little less television, work a little harder, study a little longer, and pray a lot more. I'm going to be the person I need to be. A Christian soldier for God, a homemaker and best friend for Etienne, and a friend who is there at the drop of a hat for anyone who needs me.

I hope and pray that this year is full of blessings and successes in your lives, and that at the end of it, as we say goodbye to 2013 and welcome 2014, you look back with a smile and see a year of life you can be proud of. 12 months, 365 days, and each one so precious. Don't take a single moment for granted!

All my love,

Monday, October 15, 2012

Candles, Growing Up, and Glimpses of Myself

It's mid-October now. Most people are thinking about Halloween at this time of year. While the thought of super cheap chocolate the day after the ghost and goblin holiday has crossed my mind with pleasure, I've been more focused on the holiday following it: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday. I could write pages and pages about past Thanksgivings, but I won't. However, my Aunt Greta (who just recently moved to town with her family) was over the other night and told me a story from a Thanksgiving when I was little, probably two years old, she said. I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and I'd like to share it.

Every year at Thanksgiving, my mom's side of the family (there are seven children on my mom's side) would get together for a few days. There were lots of us cousins running around, and all the aunts and uncles decided to start this tradition where all the kids make candles (or maybe they just did it once and it stuck). At bedtime we pulled them out, turned off the lights, lit all of the candles, then sang the "Goodnight Song" to each child individually and let them blow out their candle. [For those of you who are not familiar with the Goodnight Song, it's to the tune of "Goodnight Ladies" from The Music Man (but without the cheeping). Instead of "ladies," just plug in the child's name.] It was soft, slow, and harmonious, with Uncle Floyd adding in his own high tenor descant every now and then.

This was always the highlight of my Thanksgiving holiday. There was something magical about all those flames flickering in the darkness illuminating the young faces of my brothers and sister, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents, and somewhere out there in the shadowed ring of adults around us kids, my parents. These were the people I loved most in my young heart. I cherish the memory of that lullaby and those candles and all the warmth and love that enveloped us.

As we got older, our candle designs got more and more creative. We made fun shapes instead of just sticks; some of the boys worked match heads into theirs, hoping they'd ignite as the candle burned down and reached them; the last year we did it, I worked mine into the shape of an E. It became a burden on my mind somewhere in my teens that one day I was going to have to give this part of Thanksgiving up. One day I'd be too old and would have to take my place with the adults. I hated the thought of that. I hated the thought of growing up.

Apparently, there was one year when I was very young (two years old) that I missed out on the candle tradition. This was the story my aunt told me the other night. My mom wanted to put me to bed, but everyone was being slow getting around to the candles, so finally she just decided to put me to bed without it. Later, I guess when she came up to check on me, she heard my little two-year-old voice singing to myself alone in the darkened room, "Good - night, Wiz'bif.... Good - night, Wiz'bif...." She went back downstairs crying and told the others about it (knowing my aunts, they probably cried with her).

When Greta told me about that the other night (this was the first I'd heard of it), I couldn't help it. I cried, too. I'm not entirely sure why. Partially because I miss my mother so much, and the rest of my family. Just picturing that mother-baby relationship and my mom crying... Imagining the scene of me singing to myself. It made me so sad! It's so strange to me to think that that was me in there singing to myself. That little girl was me. And look at me now. Could I even be the same person? I'm not saying who I am now is bad, but I'm certainly not that little girl. And I guess I just wish I was a little more like her. More innocent, more trusting of other people, more time spent in play, and less time working or worrying. I wish I still cried when I thought I hurt my Blankey's feelings because it was pink and I said my favorite color was blue. I wish stuffed animals still had consciences, and I treated every human soul like it was the most important in the world. When did I get so judgmental? When did I get selective about showing compassion to another person? Always on the outside, but what about in my thoughts? When did it become so important to be strong, and by strong I mean completely self-reliant? I think I've really lost something along the way, and I want it back. I want to be like that little girl I used to be.

Growing up is a funny thing. There's no way you can pass through life without it changing you in some way. I just didn't realize how closely you have to watch to make sure you're changing in the way you want to be. If you just go along, roll with the punches, you'll grow and stretch to fit your needs, but that doesn't mean you're growing in the way or direction you should. But it's also kind of a comfort to know we're so malleable. I can change to be who I want to be, no matter how far I've strayed from my original person. Developmentalists say that life changes you all the time, but your core will stay the same. I saw a glimpse of my core in that little girl Greta told me about, and I want to get back to her more.

My mom's side of the family hasn't gathered for Thanksgiving in the last few years, and it's broken my heart every year. I don't see my family nearly as much anymore, and that's a hard thing for me, after all the years of being so close. But even with the ever-increasing distance our busy lives put between us, I would do anything for them, and I will always love them so dearly. It's wonderful to know that feeling is reciprocated in the hearts of all my family. Almost every single one of my relatives from these Thanksgivings made the journey to be at Etienne and I's wedding this past May. They came from California, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and Indiana to be there, and I know it was a sacrifice. And once they got there, they all worked so hard to help get things ready and running smoothly! I was so touched by all of this, but I was stopped dead in my tracks when, just as Etienne and I were about to leave, I heard all of them start singing in the crowd, "Good - night Elizabeth, Good - night Elizabeth, Good - night Elizabeth, You're going to leave us now." Tears were streaming down my face, and I'd never felt more blessed in all my life.

The memories of all the years of candles and singing and each of us kids having our moment to be the sole recipient of all that love will stay with me till the day I die. I hope someday when I tell my kids about it they'll beg for us to do the same thing at Thanksgiving with my parents and my siblings and their kids.

My once-strong hope of all of my mom's side getting together for Thanksgiving is almost non-existent now. But, if we ever do, I know what I'm going to do. Grown-up or not, I'm makin me a candle!

Though I'm sure you'll hear from me before then, I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! Etienne and I plan to spend it in Ohio.

Love to all!