Wednesday, October 19, 2011 Make Your Trip Stressful, Frustrating, and Complicated

This reminded me of traveling in Europe in so many ways. This is one of the reasons I don't like to travel alone. I sent this email to United Airlines this morning. Hopefully, I am not brushed off!

Dear United,

While traveling back to Fresno, CA from Omaha, NE, my plane from LAX to FAT was overbooked. The agent asked if anyone would be willing to give up their seats and would be compensated with a $400 voucher, a meal voucher, and a paid night in a hotel near the airport. This was right before boarding, around 7:45pm. I graciously gave up my seat trying to help out since no one else was willing. This was a large mistake on my part. It took the agent from then until 9:15pm to get my vouchers figured out. My checked suitcase had been pulled off the plane and sent down to baggage claim, but by the time I got down there, a ramp worker had taken it back upstairs for some reason. The baggage service worker just kept saying "The ramp guy took your bag to the ramp." I don't know where that was because I did not have any tags directing to my new flight, just the old tag with the flight that had already departed. I waited for fifteen minutes before my bag was sent back down. This caused me to miss a shuttle to my hotel, and I waited for thirty minutes until the next one came. I finally arrived at the Westin LAX around 10:15pm. I was exhausted at this point, as I had been traveling since early morning. I went to check-in, and the desk clerk told me my voucher was not valid. The agent at my gate had given me the wrong copy, and as I've never had a voucher before, I did not know this. Both the meal voucher and hotel voucher were unacceptable. The clerk told me to go BACK to the airport and get the right one. He said the hotel was sold out, but he had a room for me in the United block of rooms. I had to take my rather large suitcase and two carry-ons back to the the airport to talk to a representative. Once I arrived, I had to wait in line at the check-in counter for twenty minutes to speak to someone. When I talked to a representative, she was not helpful at all. She said she could not give me a voucher because the hotel was sold out, and I had to go get my original from my gate. I was given a security checkpass, but that did not matter. Once at security, I was told my suitcase would not fit through the scanner. I knew this because it was the one I always check and had just gotten from baggage claim over an hour before. Finally they let me try, but first the TSA worker made me leave all my liquids behind. That was very upsetting; I had expensive shampoo and conditioner, brand new expensive lotion, face wash, face lotion, and eye makeup remover. No one was willing to help me out at all. The worker said she would be there until 11:15pm but once she was gone, she would not watch my stuff and it would be up for grabs. It was already 11:05pm at this point. I finally made it through security and got upstairs to the gate. I talked to a gate agent, and she said I did not have to do all of that to get my right voucher. That made me furious. I was sent to a gate further down to talk to a supervisor, and I told her my dilemma. The gate agent had originally given me the auditor's copy of the vouchers. I told her about my liquids downstairs but she ignored me and would not help me get them back. They were at the entrance of security, so I could not go back down to get it. I was finally given the right vouchers and sent on my way. I made it back to the hotel at 11:45pm and was almost not even surprised to find out that United had overbooked the hotel as well by sending people there when they had no rooms left. Of course, my room had been given away. I was asked to wait 45 minutes to see if housekeeping had cleaned any of the rooms. It was long after midnight when I finally received a room, and after one before I was finally in bed. I had an early flight and had to get up at 5:15am. I was also unable to even use the meal voucher, as it was for dinner.

I would like to be properly compensated for being so inconvenienced and for not being treated as a valued customer. When I tried to speak with a representative or agent at the airport, I was brushed off and ignored. That is unacceptable, no matter how busy they are. The $400 voucher doesn't begin to cover the frustration, uncertainty, and exhaustion that night caused me.



Monday, October 3, 2011

Wedding Crashers: A Cultural Experience

Yes, it's true. The highlight of my weekend was crashing a wedding reception with Alejandra and Stephanie. I did not know the bride or the groom. I've only known the person who invited me for a week. Still, we were welcomed most graciously, along with the other guests, with delicious food and party favors.

Alejandra's co-worker and friend, Gabi, asked if we wanted to come with her to her cousin's Hispanic wedding reception Saturday evening. It was in Reedley, in a rural outdoors park-like area. It was a beautiful evening, definitely not too warm. When we arrived, some people were already there and had started eating. We found room at a table, and our food was brought to us, as well as water and our own bottle of Fanta (grapefruit=delicious!) to share. The food was aMAZING! Carnitas, beans, and rice with tortillas, and it was all about the flavor. That was some food I could get used to. Gabi said ten pigs were killed for the dinner. We thanked the pigs for their sacrifice. It was worth it! :)

As we ate our meal, Gabi shared some of the traditions of her culture. About a eight months to a year before the wedding, the betrothed couple ask family members and friends of the families for sponsorships- varying amounts for different wedding expenses. The sponsors then either provide money or sometimes provide whatever they chose to pay for (decorations, favors, cake, etc.). This can make for a very large reception because the sponsors invite people to the wedding. From what I understand, it's kind of like, "I am sponsoring a wedding this weekend. Would you like to go with me, friend from work, uncle, cousin, brother?" But no one minds! It's about celebrating. I like that a lot. cream!
After our meal, we sat and talked as more people arrived. Most people, once finished eating, would move to chairs set around the edge the perimeter of the yard so new people could sit and eat. We noticed some children eating Mexican ice cream, and we went to find some as well. A man was selling from the back of his van in three flavors. Fresa (strawberry), Vainilla (vanilla), and Limón (lime). I tried the fresa and it was so good! It had real bits of fruit in it. The Vainilla was good too, with a hint of cinnamon to it. It tasted like chai, which if you know me at all, then you know that is my drink of choice. So the ice cream was a big success. :)

After we had sat at the table for quite awhile, we moved over to watch the dancing. They did not hire a mariachi band, but the music was still very much fiesta-ish and a lot of fun to listen to. We even danced to a couple of songs. Basically, if you can move your feet to the beat, then you will be fine out there. Add a little hip-swaying and you are golden. If the music died down at all during the song, you could hear all of the feet moving against the pavement. It was really a lot of fun! One song in particular stands out in my mind, and I can still hear the repetitious notes being played over and over. It was played while they honored the sponsors of the wedding. Names were called out, one by one, and they would join the newlyweds on the dance floor.

Party favors
Overall, it was a beautiful reception, filled with celebration and love. I had a fantastic time and wouldn't mind being a part of something like that again! The only bummer for me was that we didn't get to try the cake. They cut their pieces to feed each other, but never cut the cake. Pretty soon, the children and I suspect a few adults had tested the frosting, making the cake bare in some places. I don't think I would have wanted the cake then anyways. Finally, I am including a picture of my party favors. One is a magnet of a bride and groom with a ribbon bow attached that reads "Neuestra Boda" or "Our Wedding." The second is just decorative, with a clay-like rose and calla Lilly and clear beads with ribbon. It's lovely!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Sun is Shining

Here is my monthly update, as it seems that I can only find the time and energy to write once a month. Hopefully, I can kick it up a notch, but I make no promises!

The infection I had turned out to be a cyst of some sort, and I had to have an inCISION and drainage (those are the only details I am sharing on that) and was prescribed ten more days of antibiotics on top of the original two weeks, equaling 3.5 weeks of antibiotics. Of course, it takes a toll on your body while on antibiotics- at least mine does, and let's just say I've had other complications during those 3.5 weeks. The antibiotic worked though and all that remains is a tiny red scar from the incision.

I've been job searching for nearly four weeks, and while I have applied at several different places, there have not been any call backs. Until today, that is. I was teaching Audrey this morning when my phone rang. It was Barnes and Noble, one of the first places I applied. If you know me at all, you know this is a dream job for me. I absolutely love literature and reading. English major for a reason, and no, it was not because I loved writing papers. The interview is set for next Tuesday. It is a group interview which makes me think they are hiring for seasonal help and need several people.

Not only did I receive that call today, but I was also contacted to set up an interview for a private tutoring position with Sullivan Learning Systems, a tutoring company located here in Fresno. That interview is set for tomorrow morning. If all goes well, I may be able to take on both jobs as they are both part time positions.

Flowers picked for me by Aidan and Olivia. There are more in the box!
Life is good here in California, even though I've been nervous the past few weeks about finding a job and starting my life. I know God has it figured out and as Titus, who is ten years old says, "He has a plan for me." :)

This is an adventure in the making, and I will keep my little blog world (my 17 followers and few visitors) updated as much as possible. I think it is going to be a fun ride!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Things I Could Never Do Before

Here I am, sitting in a new house, in a new city, in a new state. I am thousands of miles away from home. I have all of the normal feelings-excitement, anticipation, and a touch of nerves. I can hardly believe I am starting a new chapter in life. It's so refreshing. And scary.

I thought I would move to California and take on Fresno like a madwoman. I imagined myself being a champion of sorts, finding a job in a week, seeing what the city has to offer, and jumping into California life right away. What I realized instead was that I was already doing things that make me a champion, just by living life. Switching states and changing my residency isn't the only thing that makes me victorious.

I woke up this weekend with an ear infection, and it grew progressively worse until I had to call a doctor to prescribe an antibiotic. When I picked it up from the pharmacy, I saw the pill was the size of the state I now live in. I have a horrible gag reflex and was sure I would throw it up/gag it up/ or finally get it down after it was half-disintegrated. I stared at the pill, sitting in the palm of my hand, as my stomach cringed at the thought of getting it down. Finally, mustering up enough courage to take the pill, I shoved it in my mouth and took a long swig of water. The pill washed right down, and I was so surprised, I stopped mid-drink and just stared at myself in the mirror before remembering to drink more water. To most people, that story doesn't mean much. To me, however, that story is everything. I couldn't take large pills before. I would try several times before giving up and staying sick or finding an alternate route. But now I can. And I did. Champion, right there.

Pismo Beach...I just had to add it! :)
There are other things that I find myself doing, things I never thought I would see myself do. Everyone must think that I could move halfway across the country easy-peasy, but honestly? That was one of the hardest things I've done so far in my life. But I did it. So that makes me victorious. It's not always big though, like the pill. I started a bank account today in a new city. Thursday, I am getting my California drivers' license. We all have accomplishments or milestones that make us feel like champions. They seem like nothing to those around us, but we know that they are a sign of victory. Embrace those moments and remember them later when you face thing you thought you couldn't do before.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Adventures Just Keep Coming

It is pretty obvious that camp has stolen away most of my time, leaving me unable to update much this summer. :) Even the weekends have been busy or I've been too tired to even think about writing here. Sorry for that!

Camp is nearing an end, and I can't believe it. I feel like I just pulled up to Camp Rivercrest, nervous and anxious to meet new people and start something new. And now, here I am, nearly two months later, still alive (there were a few moments when I didn't think I'd quite make it) and kicking. :) I've learned a lot and been stretched in many ways, and while it isn't always fun, I'm glad I grew up this summer.

So what's the next adventure then? That has been the million dollar question in my life since returning from Europe last November. I thought I would know as soon as my plane hit the landing where I would go next and what I would do. However, God had a plan of His own, and now looking back at the past nine months, I know it was better than anything I could create.

I am moving to California! I leave August 26th. I am not sure how long I will be there yet, but I am ready for anything. :)

I guess that's all I have to say for now...feel free to ask questions. ;)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Small Town, I really do love you...

For weeks now, I have been avoiding tying up loose ends and packing my bags for the summer. I hate packing so so much. I always wait until the night before (I might need something beforehand!), and then I am overwhelmed about what to take. And that's if I am going away for the weekend. Trying to pack for an entire summer is a million times harder. How will I know what I need in July? Of course, since I will have my car for some storage, I am packing half of what I own knowing full well I will only use about a third of it. Oh well.

The past couple of days, I have been faced with the realization that these are my final days in Kirksville. After living here fifteen years, it seems strange and a little unreal. My entire life has been built here- school, college, church, work, friends, family-and I will miss it. I love traveling and city life, but the small town still appeals to me and holds a special place in my heart. I wanted this final post to honor the place where I grew up.

This is the sign that greeted me the first time I remember driving to Kirksville to visit my uncle and his family. I doubt it is the exact same sign that was there in 1996, but I can still remember hitting the top of the hill and being able to see down into Kirksville. Compared to where I lived at the time, Kirksville was a city! :)

  Growing up, if I could have lived at the library, I would have done it. My love for reading was intensified when I discovered the public library. Before that, I had only known a small school library where I used to live. Kirksville's public library was massive compared to the other one. I would check out a stack of ten to fifteen books (at least...I knew that max was 50), and I read them in a week if not sooner. I just walked down the aisles, looking for interesting books, first in the juvenile fiction then the adult fiction. I never tired of reading. By the time I was in junior high, I could read a three hundred page book in a day! This place will always be special to me, for giving me a way to enjoy one of my favorite past times.

There are so many streets like this, especially over by the schools.  I love driving down them, especially this time of year through the fall. It is just beautiful. This is on my friend's street, outside her house. I feel as if it could be straight from Anne of Green Gables and I want to name it something special. It's almost as if it were a modern Lover's Lane, the way the trees canopy overhead.

I spent four painstaking years within these "walls." Some moments were filled with frustration, tears, and an eagerness to leave, but I look back at it all with a deep appreciation for the growth that took place and the person I became over time. I especially loved the campus like this, full of green-ness and beautiful!

Kirksville is quite the storm magnet! While I have witnessed some horrible storms that end in tragedy, I love rain in Kirksville. I love the green trees against the bluish-gray sky. I know it probably looks similar in most other places, but I just love it here. I also love to watch the storm sweep across town, leaving part of it sunny while you can see the rain pouring on the other half.

This is the best I could for a picture of the high school. I actually love the school grounds. It is gorgeous, and when the trees are in bloom, I just sigh and feel so happy. (I feel like Phoebe would insert "What is it with you and nature?" here.) Aside from that, I absolutely loved subbing at the high school. I was so excited to spend my day there, getting to know fellow teachers and work in a classroom. I could be a sub for a long time and be quite content! :)

Last but not home. Nothing more needs to be said besides that. I love living here and will be sad to leave it. I am glad to have a few more weeks in it when I come home in August. But more on that later...
I'm sure I could have shared several more places than this, but it was these places I was thinking of today as I drove around town. As much as I've wanted to get away from Kirksville and live in the city, I must say, Small Town, I do love you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Journey Ahead

"How we spend our lives is, of course, how we spend our days." ~ Annie Dillard (American writer)

For months, I have been asking myself, What next? I thought that after trekking across Europe I would have a clear idea of what my next step in life would be. Instead, I found that I had no clue what it was. That scared me. I wrestled with different options, looked for jobs (without much luck), and just decided to try to make it as was until I could find something that worked for me. That was fine until I realized one day that I was just sitting still, not moving forward at all. I could no longer just "float" along in life, waiting for the next big thing to happen. I could make plans all I wanted, but if I never pursued them, it was pointless.

As it turns out, my deciding to become proactive worked in my favor. When one of my cousins suggested I apply at a Christian summer camp in Nebraska that her husband works at, I had my doubts. I mean, go live in another state for the summer? Could I do something like that? I wasn't sure that I could. Yet I was still filled with excitement at the possibility of going. After much consideration, I sent in my application and waited to hear from the program director. 

It didn't take long. I heard back the next day, and we set up a time to have a phone interview. It was a week away, and I was a bundle of nerves, waiting for the next week to go by. Finally, it did, and I had the interview. It went amazingly, and I felt such a peace about the whole thing. 

That was a week ago, and I tried not to let myself think too much about it and get my hopes up. If it were the right thing for me, it would happen. In some ways, this opportunity made me more nervous than even traveling to Europe for seven weeks by myself. It was a nervous excitement, but also a little bit of fear that comes with anything new and uncertain.

Today, I received a message asking if I was still interested in the job because the director would love to have me there. (Enter huge grin and happy dance) Never did I think I would be able to do something like this, and yet here I am, heading to Nebraska in 37 days...because, yes, I did take the job. And after that? Who knows! I only know that I am taking purposeful steps and living my life to the fullest. 

For those interested: The job is a staff position coordinating the snack shack but also being a part of the camp's daily life. The kids range from the ages of entering first grade to entering their senior year, and there are new campers every week. I will be 30 minutes-ish from Omaha and about that far from my cousins too. If you have any questions, please ask! I do have a lot more information. :)

I will miss living here a lot, but in this day and age, technology really does keep us closer.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

In Remembrance: From the Beaches of Spain to the Streets of Paris

I wrote the other day about my time in Europe, sharing three highlights from my stay in England. I wanted to share so much more, but there is just too much for one blog. Instead, I decided to break it down into small segments. This is the next installment. :)

After leaving England, I flew to Spain. Before last summer, I had never really thought much about visiting Spain. That was before one of my former roommates/friend moved there for studies. I decided it would not be a bad thing to go after all. And I am so glad I did. :)

4. The first full day I was in Spain, we decided to visit San Sebastián. It was just a bus ride away from Bilbao (where I was staying), and I was not disappointed. Even with the rain, it was beautiful. We walked through San Sebastián down to the beach, and let me tell you, it was breathtaking. Sometimes, I think back to that day when I am stressed, and it calms my nerves. We wrote in the sand, along with several others. The beach was covered with these notes, salutations to friends and family members back home (wherever that was for people), and drawings. Of course, we contributed as well, leaving our "mark" in least until the next tide or rainstorm...both of which came within the next hour. While staring out at the water, with land situated on either side and huge billowy clouds, I felt as if I were staring at a painting and sincerely wished I could paint. I never wanted to forget that scene. The pictures are beautiful, but they do not do justice to the serenity of the moment, even with the waves starting to grow and the rain clouds forming.

On the way to San Sebastián
Love to Mom :)

Some other Americans beat us here, I guess. :)


Paris....oh, Paris. There is definitely not enough blog space in the world to share everything from my weekend in Paris. Yes, it was only a weekend, but boy do my friends and I know how to squeeze in a week's worth of adventure into one weekend! We toured like crazy, seeing the Eiffel Tower (and going up to the TOP), walked through both the Notre Dame and a smaller church that we were told was the Notre Dame but wasn't, and stood under the Arc de Triomphe. We also walked to the Louvre but because of our time crunch were unable to go inside. Next time, I will. And there will be a next time!

5. Not to be a little too predictable, but yes, the Eiffel Tower is one my highlights. How could it not be? My first glimpse of the tower was the night I arrived in Paris. We had just gotten off the metro at Champs-Élysées. We looked to our left and behind some tall trees, there was the top of the Eiffel Tower all lit up. (I tried to take a picture but failed.) The next day, I was standing up there, looking out across Paris. Paris. I still can hardly believe it. From up there, you could see everything- the Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and the Royal Palais. I was mesmerized and just stood there for what seemed like hours looking out across the city. Someone was proposed to while we were up at the top too. It was a perfect moment, although I would have shouted from my spot, "I'm engaged!" had it been me. :)

There's the Eiffel Tower!
This is all that was left above me once I went to the top level!

 I wish I could write about everything I experienced in Paris. Maybe I will write just about that someday. For now, these pictures are a few of my favorites. :)

The River Seine

First Glimpse of the Notre Dame

Arc de Triomphe

 Look for the highlights of Copenhagen and Sweden in my next installment! :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Remembrance: Strolling through England

"Once in awhile it really hits people that they don't have to experience the world the way they have been told to." 
~ Alan Keightley

Six months ago today, I left the town I grew up in to board a plane and travel thousands of miles away. I was scared, nervous, and excited as I made my way to the airport on that early Wednesday morning. People were driving to work, and I wanted to shout out the window, "I'm going to Europe today! For seven weeks! And no one is going with me!" I didn't though.

Those six weeks (I came home one week early) were a whirlwind of adventure, fun, emotional ups and downs, and both spiritual and personal growth. Even now, I can hardly believe I traveled around six countries solo (without a computer or cell phone I might add) and still managed to come home without any problems. That I most definitely credit to God. Through the scares of the heightened terrorist levels for American tourists, nearly missing flights/trains, getting lost every once in awhile, and a riot in Paris that started the day I left, I knew I was never alone. While in the initial moment, I may have panicked (I am human, after all), that was quickly replaced by peace and the knowledge that I was not alone. 

I was watching Funny Face yesterday because I had not seen it for nearly two years. I felt such strong pangs while watching Audrey and Fred walk by the Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, and Champs-Élysées, and all the cafés. Today, as I watch The Young Victoria, I have the same feeling of missing England. Not a day goes by that I don't think of the time I spent in Europe, and yet, it all feels like a dream.

Today, I want to share a few highlights from my trip. I wish I could take everyone through all the memories and events that happened, but that would be impossible and take way more than a blog post to wade through. I do this so as not to forget what I experienced, even as time continues to move forward and those six weeks stay planted in my past. I am still living in the outcome of those experiences and hope to never forget it.

The shorter connected building (on the left) was added in the 1930s.
1. John Keats' home: When I found out I was going to London for a week, I was nearly ecstatic.  You see, I was working on a senior seminar research paper on the Romantic poet, John Keats, and his home was located only twenty minutes away (via tube) from where I would be staying. I could hardly contain my excitement as I rode the tube with one of the girls I was staying with, and as we walked towards the street he lived on, I could not keep the smile off my face. Even the slight drizzle was no match for my good spirits. I remember coming to his gate where the nameplate read, "Wentworth Place" and slowly made my way down the walk towards the entrance of the house. As I stepped inside, my breath caught and the hair rose on my arms. I was standing, standing, in Keats' home. The very place he wrote some of his most moving poetry and letters to Fanny, his beloved. As my friend and I walked through the house and I stood at his fireplace, sat on his chair, and looked through the display case at Fanny's engagement ring and poem "Bright Star", I felt tears well up in my eyes. I was incandescently happy in that moment. It is noticeable in the pictures. :)  

Standing under London Bridge
2. A Day with the Dunns: Have you ever experienced so many things by yourself that you just can't process much more? That was me about the fourth day in London. I had traveled nearly 4000 miles, explored the city by foot (and in the rain), and had eaten maybe one meal a day. I was enjoying myself immensely, but was also wanting something of the familiar even if just for a moment. Fortunately, I was able to have that with Danny and Sarah, who were also visiting England but for a conference. We met early in the morning and planned to take in sights all day before catching a West End (ahem, Broadway show for us Americans) that night-Les Misérables. I was terribly eager to see them, but of course, that was also the one day there was a tube strike during my stay. I crammed onto the bus with many, MANY other people trying to get to work, and stood for  nearly an hour, as there were no seats to be had. Once I got off (and found them for that was also quite the ordeal), I immediately forgot all of my discomfort and worries. It felt wonderful to see friends and not feel alone. We took London by storm that day, visiting Westminster Abbey, viewing Big Ben and House of Parliament, touring Churchill's War Cabinets and the Imperial War Museum, saw the changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace, as well as walking on the London Bridge and around the Tower of London. It was a full day and by the time we reached the Queen's Theatre, I was exhausted. Still, I was captivated by the show and have since deemed it one of my favorites. It was hard saying good-bye to the Dunns, but I was also rejuvenated for the next leg of my trip, Basingstoke. That day will also remain one of my favorite memories of my trip.

Jane's Grave
3. Jane Austen's Home and Grave: This is my last stop in England, I promise. There is just so much about my trip that sticks with me! :) I could not move on though without at least mentioning Jane Austen. I visited Winchester one day when I was in Basingstoke, and as I stood over Jane Austen's grave in Winchester cathedral, I could not help but feel in awe that I was there. Jane Austen's bones were beneath me in that very spot. The literary genius (as she is to me) who captures the hearts of women all the world over with Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth, and Mr. Knightley, was in that very spot. I had to politely wait for a German family to remove themselves from her stone, but once they did, I just knelt and read the inscription, pausing for a moment to take in where I was. I also saw her last residence that day, which is a private home and does not take kindly to being bothered. (A notecard in the window stated that quite clearly!)

There is much more to say about Europe, and I most definitely will add to this list in the next few days. The importance of calling these things to remembrance is to not forget why I went or what I experienced as time goes on...six months year later...or twenty years later.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor died last night. I never liked her much. I was not a fan of her as a person only as an actress. She tore apart more than one relationship (including one of my favorite couples, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher). Still, when Dad told me today that Elizabeth had passed, I wanted to cry. I realized an era is in fact ending. Gene Kelly. Cary Grant. Audrey Hepburn. Judy Garland. Katherine Hepburn. Elizabeth Taylor. And so many more. All of these stars worked their lives away to entertain us, with such class and debonair. Yet they are slowly falling away.

If you know me at all, you know that I love Hollywood, especially classic Hollywood. I sometimes wonder if people realize how hard actors and actresses worked in those early years to produce something worth seeing. It was not always sunshine and smiles. Greta Garbo said, "If only those who dream about Hollywood knew how difficult it all is." Still, those pioneers didn't give up. They persevered, helping people forget their troubles if only for just an hour or two and brought happiness to people all the world over.

It saddens me to see the talent of yesterday fade. I don't mean to say that Hollywood today isn't talented. I am saying, however, that it could take a lesson or two from those who paved the way for what today's celebrities are living in. I am reading a book right now, What Would Audrey Do?. I know, I know. You may be thinking that this book sounds lame. Another celebrity self-help book. Wrong. It examines Audrey's life and shows how she would respond in certain situations, that while seeming specific to the starlet's life, can in fact relate to anyone's life. She was full of grace, compassion, and an inner beauty that far surpasses many actresses in Hollywood today.

At one point, the author of this book points out that it doesn't take much to make a "celebrity" these days. Someone has a youtube video go viral, lands a spot on a reality television show, or says something outrageously ignorant, and BAM. Celebrity. Websites are created, t-shirts are for sale, and they are on Good Morning America or The Late Show. As the author puts it, anyone can be a "celebrity" in today's society. It has lost its meaning.

Okay. I've pushed the Classic Hollywood argument, so does that mean I don't like Hollywood today? Of course not. It's Hollywood. I believe there are some there who do realize what has been given to them by people like Jimmy Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, and Gregory Peck. There are those who carry as much class as Audrey and Cary. (Julia Roberts anyone? George Clooney?) That's why I love the Oscars. They never forget their heritage by showing clips of the early years and honoring the greats such as Mickey Rooney and Lena Horne. But there will never be another era in Hollywood like that of yesterday. There is a reason it is called the "Golden Age."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Excuse me, please!

I went shopping this weekend with a friend of mine and her two daughters. We really lived up to the phrase, "Shop 'til you drop," ending the evening with both girls crashing in the backseat on the drive home. It was a fun day, and I had a blast with Payton and Ava.

Jamie (my friend) and I promised the girls if they were good all day we would get candy and ride the carousel. We were almost done shopping, and the girls had been real troopers. We let them walk while pushing the strollers behind them, and they practically ran towards the food court, holding hands. As I was watching them to make sure one didn't pull the other down in their haste or that they didn't plow into someone, I found myself saying things like, "Oh, watch out!" and "Say excuse me!" That's when I realized something. I didn't know if I was talking more to the girls or to the people who wouldn't move out of their way and pushed by them.

Payton on the carousel
I began to think about the entire day. Pushing a stroller through crowded aisles and clothes racks, only to have to back up because someone won't scoot to the side. If Payton pushed on by, I told her to say "excuse me," but was I really directing it at the adult?

This post isn't any big revelation about saying excuse me and being polite. It is about one thought: Once I realized that I was potentially saying "watch out" and "excuse me" to the adults, I felt powerful with my hidden lessons in politeness. I felt as if I was reminding the adults and the kids alike to think of others first.

Ava on her horsie :)
On another semi-related note: If you have not visited the store Crazy 8, GO! Yes, it is a clothing store for children, but the prices are not too bad and the sales are great. I suppose at this point, I must admit that I do in fact buy baby clothes on sale and put them in a box in my closet. It's a habit I acquired in high school after spending several hours in Gymboree, Baby Gap, and Janie and Jack. Even if you don't have children of your own, everyone knows someone who has children, is pregnant now or will be pregnant someday.  :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Growing up, I remember lying in bed the night before my birthday, unable to sleep from the excitement and anticipation building up on the inside. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to think about boring things that usually made me doze off, but this one night of the year, I could not for the life of me fall asleep. I did not even have that much trouble on Christmas eve compared to the night before my birthday. I just wanted it to be so much.

Somehow, I managed to finally let Mr. Sandman work his magic, and my birthday came. No matter how little sleep I got the night before, this was the one morning of the year that I could bounce out of bed at 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning with no problem. I was ready to enjoy my birthday.

My 4th birthday
As I grew older, I started counting down to my birthday. When I say count down, I do not mean ten days before or three weeks before. I am talking months before. September 1st rolled around and BAM. Halfway mark. Six months and counting. I had to be one of the most annoying people obsessed about her birthday, yet my friends and family accepted my enthusiasm as a part of who I was.

After my birthday treat at school, dinner with my family, checking the mailbox for cards from relatives and opening my presents, I got ready for bed and was filled with a sinking feeling. Today was over. It was over. I had a whole year ahead of me now with no special day belonging to me. The rest of the year just felt so...ordinary.

My 17th birthday
This year, I was feeling a sort of trepidation. I did not want to move forward another year. I had the sinking feeling already, and my birthday had not even happened. 23 just felt old(er). I still wanted to be the four-year-old who got Pretty Pretty Princess and a big girl bike for her birthday, the seventeen-year-old who had the most memorable birthday party ever. But 23? What is special about that? That is halfway between 20 and 25. It's the peak of the mini rollercoaster in my 20s. I just wanted to put the brakes on and stop 22 from leaving me.

Today, I thought about being 23, and all of a sudden, it was cool to me. I could almost picture 23 being this very sophisticated age and making 22 seem very young and carefree. Of course, I wish I could be young and carefree forever, but if I can't, I would love it even more to be sophisticated and grown up. And that is what 23 has come to mean to me. Grown up. An adult. 23 is the first year for me since I was five that will have no form of schooling in it. It is the peak between 20 and 25, but as I see it, I just keep getting more sophisticated from here on out, as my age increases. As Payton, who is five put it, I am going to be a "lady soon when I keep getting older."
Cake my BFF, Kate, made on my 21st birthday

So now, 23 is no longer the big bad age that makes me want to hide under the covers until March 2. It is the "perfect" age; perfect in the sense that I am going to make the most of each day spent in 23, and not one of them will be ordinary. Because I am no ordinary person with a ho-hum life. I aim to make 23 my best year yet, full of adventure and excitement. The bar has been set high by 22 with graduating from college AND going to Europe, but I think 23 will surpass even that.

Hello, 23. :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Who Let the Dogs Out?

     Fear. How many times do we let fear get the best of us? Let it wreak havoc on our minds and leave us unable to function normally? How often do we give in rather than overcome?
     I will be the first to tell you that I do this more often than not. In this case, my fear is very much concrete. I have had this fear since I was around five years old, and some have even labeled it a "phobia" due to its intensity. I don't like to advertise it, and besides, if you get to know me at all, this definitely comes up at some point. It's inevitable.

     I am afraid, no, petrified of dogs. 

     I first learned the word "petrified" in junior high. Once I heard it, I latched onto it, knowing it was the perfect word to describe my fear. Other words have been added, including "terrified" and "phobic" yet "petrified" encompasses all these things and more. The thesaurus reads (in synonyms for "petrified"),

"afraid, alarmed, anxious, fearful, frightened, frozen, have cold feet, immobilized, in a cold sweat, in a panic, numb, panicky, scared, scared stiff, spooked, terror-stricken, terrorized, unnerved."

     In a nutshell, that is me around dogs. Actual live dogs. Not pictures or movies of dogs (just to be clear). Now, I know that writing something like this could cause issue, as some people don't understand how an adult could have a fear like this. I understand that. I wish I knew why it still plagues me as well. This is just my story, and hopefully, there is a happy ending someday. :)

     As I said before, this fear began when I was just starting school and involved a large dog I didn't know at a park. From then on, dogs were the enemy. Since then, if I know there is a dog around, my heart starts beating quickly and loudly in my ears, my stomach ties up in knots, and I feel sick. My whole body starts shaking so badly, that at times my knees start knocking together. I usually end up crying as well. 

     As a child, I was met with varying reactions to my fear. Some were very compassionate and would hold their dog around me or put the dog in a different room/outside. Others were not so kind and chose to let the dog run around me while I tried climbing up any adult nearest me. (If I ever did that to someone reading this, I apologize.) I don't begrudge those who didn't help me. They just didn't understand. 

     In my teenage years, I could obviously no longer climb on my dad's shoulders or scramble onto the back of a family member. Instead of going into crying hysterics, I would freeze whenever I saw a dog (or refuse to get out of the house/vehicle) and when my parents or whoever pushed me, I would panic/get angry and turn into...well, a big meanie. Even now, in the rare occasions that I am forced to face my fear, my reflex is to get mad at the person nearest me and lash out. 

     I think the biggest part of my fear is that I feel alone in it. I don't mean that I feel like I am the only one who has the fear, but that I am the only one around me who understands  it. Recently, my mom pointed out it wasn't true. My mom and dad have been going through it twenty one years too. They've been the ones I've climbed on, pleaded with, and yelled at. My brother and sister have also had to learn how to deal with it.  My friends too. Anyone that I am close to has had to hold a dog, make sure a dog is put away, or help me calm down after I've had an encounter with a dog. It takes its toll on everyone.

     When I was in Europe in the fall, one thing I noticed was that I wasn't afraid of the dogs there. I was jumpy at times because most dogs are so well trained that they do not even need leashes, but overall, I was calm and in control when a dog crossed my path. I started to wonder why that was. It wasn't like a conscious decision to "get over" my fear, but somehow, I was doing that. I thought at first that maybe it was because the dogs there are so well-trained, that I wasn't nervous. That was before I went to Copenhagen. 

     One day, I was walking through Copenhagen with a friend, looking at all the touristy stuff by New Harbour. As we walked, I saw a stray sea dog coming towards us. It looked like a sheepdog.  I was a little nervous, but my friend was talking and I didn't want to interrupt her. I kept my heart rate at a decent level and tried to show no signs I was scared. We passed by the dog...and nothing happened. It kept walking. I was amazed at myself. Something like that back home would have frozen me in terror. 

     I decided after much thought that the reason I did so well over in Europe had two reasons. 1) I was alone a lot without my usual "support group" of family and friends to help me when I crossed paths with a dog, and 2) I didn't want to look foolish in front of the people I was visiting. Since I can't go live in Europe just because I am not afraid of dogs there, I started to research what it would take here to get me over my fear.

     There is therapy for this. I am not the only one out there who struggles with this fear. But it involves a dog park. I live in a small town, and there is no dog park near me. Plus, I don't feel comfortable asking some stranger if I can pet their dog, followed by playing with it two weeks later. (Although perhaps that is normal at a dog park. I have no idea obviously.) That idea was nixed then rather quickly. 

     I am still looking for ideas or suggestions. I really do think that enough is enough. My sister is being of great help right now. She has a dog that lives indoors, and tonight, I went in the same room as the dog (a big deal), and she didn't even have to hold him. He just laid there calmly. I got less than six inches away too. This is progress for me, as her dog is a lab and can be pretty hyper. (He is an eight month old puppy and full of energy.) 

     I know my family and friends will continue to help me work this out. I know this fear can be removed, if I am willing to work on it. And I am. Starting now.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

An Old Haunt Revisited

Most people don't stay in their hometown to attend college after high school...but I did.

Most people don't stay in their college town after they graduate from college...but I did.

It can't come as a surprise then that it feels odd to visit old haunts, as Anne would say, around the university. Memories flood my mind as I pass by the buildings or see groups of college kids walking down Franklin to eat on the square in between classes. Was I really them just last year?

For the first time since Finals Week in May 2010, I walked into the Student Union Building today. I purposely avoided this moment for months because a) I wanted it to be a majestic moment when I did go back, such as a reunion with friends and b) it just feels weird going back since I've graduated. Everything feels different.

There was no angelic chorus when I walked through the door, no bright lights making a way for me. If anything, there were a few rays of sun reflecting on the snow. I walked down the stairs in a nearly empty building and found my way to the ATM, which is why I was there in the first place. Another dash in my majestic return. No friends awaited me. Only some dancers, and from the way they were dressed and the music they were listening to, I am assuming they were swing dancers. I found the right ATM and almost laughed out loud. The poor dancers had put their laptop between two of the machines and taped computer speakers to the top of the two ATMs. Unfortunately, I needed one of those ATMs. They had to wait until I was finished with my transaction before they could continue. I felt awkward going through the process to withdraw money. Oh, and did I mention the ATM was using some sort of dial-up connection? I can equate it best to retrieving money from a machine and having someone behind you waiting in line, only times that person by six.

Although I did not have the beautiful return to Truman like I wanted, running into the arms of friends who have moved away and seeing professors from past classes, what happened today reminded me how much I loved being in college. Why is it that we rush through life trying to get somewhere else instead of enjoying exactly where God has placed us?