Thoughts about pretty.

Well, I haven’t written here in almost two years, but apparently 2am is the perfect time to pick back up where I left off.  If you haven’t kept up with my life any better than I keep up with my writing, here’s what you’ve missed since exactly July 2, 2012: I came home from England, got engaged, student taught, graduated from college, got married, moved, and (barely) survived my first year as a 6th grade teacher.

Good.  You’re all caught up.

Now, all that is to say, I’m totally a grown-up now.  I have a husband and a big-girl job.  I do things like getting the oil changed in my car and paying the bills on time.  Never mind that I called my mom three times and my dad twice during the four hours it took me to sort out our tax return this year.  Grown-up.

But there are some things my fourteen-year-old self really thought I would have sorted out by now.  Like self-image.  You’d think a twenty-four-year-old would have quit feeling the heat from media, perceptions of judgement, and above all, the desire to “fit in.”

Nope.  Sorry, fourteen-year-old me, you’re still going to feel inadequate and awkward a decade from now.  You’re still not going to feel like one of “the pretty girls.”

Okay, before anyone throws a fit, it’s not that I don’t think I’m pretty.  I do think I’m pretty.  But there’s just never enough of it, you know?  I still feel the same way I did when I was a freshman in high school, like something’s clicked for all the other girls that I just haven’t figured out.  I see other girls looking so much more put-together than I feel, and I think, Where do they buy all their clothes?  How did they get their makeup to look that good?  Did they seriously watch one Youtube tutorial and learn how to braid their hair like that?  When do they find time for all of this?

I was in the car tonight having all of these thoughts that are so ridiculous for a grown-up to be having, and I noticed that despite my (probably unfounded) suspicions that I’m constantly being compared against prettier girls, I’ve never felt the need to spend my paycheck on clothes or my hours on Youtube mastering the trendiest techniques.  When I focus on pretty, I feel inadequate, like I come up short.  But when I think about who I am, I’m happy with what I see.

There’s a lot of talk about changing the way women think about themselves.  It’s saying women need to believe that they are pretty.  But I have a different idea.  I don’t think women need to change the way they think about themselves so much as they need to change the way they think about pretty.  

Why do I feel inadequate when I think about pretty, but I feel good when I think about who I am?

Here’s the bottom line.

It’s because I believe there a thousand things more important than pretty.  There are a thousand things I’d rather be than pretty.

  • Smart
  • Kind
  • Curious
  • Wise
  • Compassionate
  • Hospitable
  • Honest
  • Adventurous
  • Happy
  • Loving

There.  That’s ten things I came up with in about forty-five seconds, and I’d rather be any one of them than pretty.  And I’d rather be around people that are any one of those things over pretty.  

Don’t get me wrong.  Pretty is nice.  It’s fun.    There’s nothing wrong with shopping for cute clothes unless you just happen to be like me and absolutely hate doing it.  I do like to get dolled up and wear heels and be girly.  And I do think I’m an average sort of pretty, but I’m really, really glad that that isn’t the best of me or my highest aspiration.

So if you read this and you agree with it in any way, leave a comment telling me something you value over pretty.  

What does the world need?  Pretty people?  I think we can do better than that.



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On going home.

Last night I got off the train automatically, looking forward to the cool evening breeze and the relative darkness of the streets of Montmartre.  In the Metro, with its stuffy heat and garish light, it is always day.  Breathing in a beautiful evening at street level, I crossed Boulevard Barbès and made my way along Rue Marcadet past my favorite boulangerie and patisserie.  If it weren’t so late, I would have stopped in for an apricot pastry.  The quiet streets were soothing after the chaos of a free admission day at the Louvre and the sheer volume of thousands of España fans watching the Eurocup football final in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.  By the time I turned right onto Rue Ramey, my sights were set on Montclair Hostel 502.  I knew I just had a few flights of stairs to climb and I’d be home.

Tomorrow I will return to Liverpool after almost a week in Paris.  I’ll start to get antsy as soon as the bus turns onto Menlove Avenue, and I’ll be standing at the front by the door before we even get to the intersection.  I’ll get off at Woolton Road with a quick “Ta,” to the driver (probably giving him a chuckle to hear it in my American accent) and make my way towards campus.  As soon as I get to Taggart Avenue, I’ll feel as if I can’t possibly get to my flat fast enough.  Just a couple more blocks to Wesley 19C and I’ll be home.

In one week, I’ll be leaving Liverpool for good.  I’ll take a coach to Manchester and a plane to Chicago.  Then after a maddeningly long layover, I’ll take one last flight to Indianapolis.  My heart absolutely aches just thinking of it.  I can’t wait.  I have had a Summer full of adventure, and I have made my home everywhere from Liverpool to London to Devizes to Paris.  After all, a hostel you’re only staying in for five nights can feel like home after you’ve been running around an unfamiliar city all day, and a flat you’re only living in for two months can be called home when it’s patiently waiting for you at the end of each of your weekend adventures.  But next Monday will be different.  I won’t just be going home to a place that is comfortable because it is somewhat familiar.

I will be going where I will find the faces of people who have loved me all my life and people I will always love.  I will be going to a place where Mom brings me tea in the Bunny Cup when I’ve had a wretched day and Dad always has some new project around the house to get my opinion on.  To where Matthew will name all the stars in the sky for me and Hannah is ready to discuss whatever book she’s just finished.  To where Nanas give bone-crushing hugs and tell stories I never get sick of hearing about when she was a little girl.  To where Papa will play the Sweet Fern Jingle that he wrote especially for me and Papaw will fry me the prettiest egg I’ve ever seen.  To where Charles will be waiting for me at the airport with that smile that makes me feel like I’m the only other person in the room.

This time I’ll really be going Home.


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Let’s be honest.

Let’s be honest, I’m here for the food.

Krystle and I walked to a little place called The Neighborhood for breakfast this morning.  It had been recommended to us by Dr P and our cabby, so we decided it would be worth a try.  It was only three blocks away, but since May in Liverpool feels like March at home, I was more than ready for something warm.  I had about five cups of tea with milk and raw sugar as nature and God intended.  And since we walk everywhere, I felt quite entitled to slather my croissant with as much butter and jam as I liked.

Servers in the UK actually make minimum wage (What a concept…), so tipping isn’t expected like it is back in the States.  But I was just so content with my breakfast that I couldn’t help giving a pound to the girl behind the counter, who seemed to be the one preparing the food.  She blushed and thanked me, saying “She did all the real work!” and gesturing to our waitress (for whom I was going to leave another pound on our table).  “Well here’s a pound for her too!” I said, offering a coin.  But they both just looked shocked and refused, insisting that they’d share the tip.  They were both still laughing and thanking us when we left.  So my apologies, Paul, but it seems that we Americans really are going to ruin it for all of you with our tipping habits.

It’s a short post today.  I’ve decided it would be a losing battle to try and chronicle every day of this trip for my readers, so instead I’ll just be describing and reflecting on little tidbits here and there.  Today I just wanted to share a moment of my happy little morning.  I hope you are able to live vicariously through my croissant.


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Where’s the tea?

16 May 2012

Could I just begin by saying I’m a little disappointed that I had to make it through my entire first day in England without a single spot of tea?  I’m not a very picky traveler, but of all places, I assumed I’d be able to find a cup here.  I had to settle for some very strong coffee with dinner at five to keep my eyes open until nighttime.  I was determined to stay up late enough that I’d get a respectable eight hours of sleep my first night in Liverpool.  Above all, I wanted to avoid that awful sort of groggy hangover you get when you’ve had too much sleep.  Somehow I managed to stay up until eleven thirty, which meant that in Indiana time, I’d essentially been awake from seven Sunday morning until six thirty Monday evening.  You know, now that I type it out, it doesn’t sound nearly that bad.  But throw in a two-hour flight, a seven-hour flight, and a good cry or three, and you’ll believe me when I say that it was a long day and by supper I really just wanted a cup of tea.

I’m happy to inform my justly concerned readers, however, that I’ve found tea at some point both yesterday and today, and that my mood has been significantly improved for it, and that our university liaison has taken to calling me “Teapot” (of which I heartily approve).  You may rest easy.  In fact, I’m drinking a cup right now.

There’s so much more I’d like to write about, like about going downtown and missing a bus, and getting lost, and walking forever, and Sam and Joe, and the Abbey Pub and Fish and Chips.  But all of that will have to wait, because not even I like to read blog posts that are eight pages long, and my English flat-mates are ready to go to the Fiveways Pub with their newfangled Americans.  Cheers!


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May 13, 2012

I’ve been a pathetic excuse for a blogger recently.  Between working at TJ’s, substitute teaching, and a full course load at Ball State, I just haven’t found much time for writing.  But with a four-hour layover, I don’t have much of an excuse today.  And for the three of you out there who have actually missed my posts, it looks like I might be giving you something to read again here in the next couple of months.  We’ll see.  I know you’ve heard that before.  It’s okay, I wouldn’t take my word for it either.

In about three hours now, my feet will be leaving the ground and they won’t land on American turf again until July.  I’m still trying to wrap my mind around being away from home that long.  And if I know me at all, I won’t be able to fathom it until it’s over.

Honestly, I have made and broken so many plans over the years that it’s hard to believe big things are going to happen to me until they actually do.  I’m hundreds of miles from where I woke up at home in Indiana this morning, and yet I’m still not convinced that I’ll really be going to sleep over the Atlantic tonight.  I think I’ll believe it when I see the coastline disappear behind me.

And I hate that.  It makes me sound so skeptical.  You know?

I wonder if anybody else feels the same way.  I wonder if I’ll always feel this way.  Maybe enough big things will eventually happen to me that I’ll begin to take these things in stride.  Two months abroad? Sure, that sounds like my life.  It’s not like I’ve had a boring life.  I’ve been on more adventures than most people my age, but the excitement has never worn off.  I still say, Me? Really? —flattered by Life every time an adventure comes my way.

So maybe it’s not skepticism at all.  Maybe it’s just wonder.


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Happy Anniversary, Mom.

Today is my mom’s twentieth anniversary.  But not her wedding anniversary.  It’s her cancer anniversary.  Twenty years ago today, my mom went to work promising my dad that she would go to the emergency room as soon as she got off to see if someone could get to the bottom of her nagging chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue.  Soon she was told that she had cancer, that a tumor the size of a football was squeezing her heart and lungs, that she wasn’t expected to live.

But she did live.  She had to.

My mom had to live so that she could worry about her five-year-old son someday when he hiked the Appalachian Trail.  So that when her precocious two-year-old daughter became a grown-up little girl, she’d never miss a single blog post.  She had to live so that she would know her then-unborn daughter and watch her become a 5k runner, basketball star, math whiz, artist and comedian all by the time she turned twelve.

To me it seems like my mom had to live.  But I’m not that naïve.  She didn’t have to.  I know plenty of people who wish their mom (or dad, or cousin, or uncle, or friend) had a 20-year victory over cancer to blog about.  It breaks my heart that I’m simply the lucky one.  I’ve been blessed and I know it.  So I’m going to grab onto this gift and be grateful for every minute of it.  It’s all I know to do.  I’ll just simply say, “Happy anniversary, Mom.  I love you.”


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The world from a tire swing.

Charles and I decided to go to the Fort tonight to soak up the sunshine and relative warmth.  After a lovely hike, I enjoyed a tire swing while my man went to get the car.  Left alone for a few minutes in the dusk, I was suddenly captivated by the world around me caught somewhere between Winter and Spring.  I twirled in a slow circle, taking in the full moon rising over the pond in the East and the fragile-looking silhouettes of bare trees against the pink and purple Western horizon.  Almost directly above me, Jupiter was already shining clear and bright and small, before any of the stars.  I breathed deeply, drinking in the fresh, cold air, and I realized just how long it had been since I let myself be completely captivated by the world.

It seems fitting in a way that I left this blog in late Autumn, promising to write just as soon as I came to terms with Winter, and then I didn’t show my face again until February started acting like April.  That’s probably about how long it’s been since I last took the time to spin around on a tire swing and admire Creation.  Maybe it’s because our Winter was mild and muddy instead of frosty and white.  Believe me, I’m not complaining.  It’s been nice for a change to go through December and January without “traipsing for miles across the Ball State campus when it’s twenty below.”  That’s what I was hoping to avoid in my last post, right?  I got what I wanted.  But I’m starting to see now that perhaps Winter’s beauty lies in its bitterness.  You have to let the wind bite your cheeks if you want to find yourself in a moonlit wood among black trees and blue snow with big, soft flakes falling all around.

For whatever reason, other than one evening in December which happened exactly like I just described, I think I more or less missed those moments this Winter.  But you’d better believe I’m not going to this Spring.


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Now we have but one choice.

Autumn is losing steam.  Has anyone else noticed this?  This morning was bitterly cold, and the afternoon hasn’t been much better.  Now, I’ve always prided myself on appreciating all the seasons, not just the mild-mannered ones.  But this morning really tried my theory.  I don’t mind Winter.  Truly, I don’t.  In some ways, it’s my favorite season.  It brings my two favorite days of the year– Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.  There’s no better time of year to enjoy a cup of tea and a roaring fire.

So what is it that gave me such a sense of dread this morning?  I’ve come to the conclusion it isn’t Winter itself.  I’m not afraid of Winter.

I’m afraid of facing Winter.

Does that make sense?  It’s a daunting thing, when you think about it.  Autumn is basically done.  The leaves have all fallen.  The pumpkins have all been carved.  Crisp afternoons have given way to bitter ones.

I won’t be warm outside for months.  I’m going to be wearing layers of bulky clothing for months. My knuckles are going to crack and bleed for months.  My nose is going to run constantly for months.

I know, I know.  I’m supposed to be your personal unfailing optimist.  No, this post hasn’t been written by guest-blogger Michael Ulrich.  I’m just a little unenthusiastic about traipsing for miles across the Ball State campus when it’s twenty below.  Have I really survived it for the past three years?  Surely not.

And I really don’t have any cheerful way to end this post.  My fingers are still too frozen from being outside an hour ago.  Maybe the happy ending will come in the form of another post in a few days when I come to terms with the impending Winter.  Or maybe I won’t be happy about it until there’s snow on the ground.  For now, I can only say this, and I wonder how many of you will get the reference:

Now we have but one choice…we must face the long dark of Winter.


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I’m still here.

This one is for My Uncle Hoyt and Aunt Floy, probably my most faithful readers of all.  Thanks for begging me for more posts.

This is going to have to be a quick post.  I need to be getting ready for class right now, actually.  I just wanted to take a quick minute and tell anyone who still keeps an eye out for new posts here that I haven’t forgotten about ODP.  Promise.

I hate not blogging.  I love my little speck of cyber space and I love my faithful (and not-so-faithful) readers even more.  And it’s not that I don’t have anything to blog about anymore.  But between teaching, being a full-time student, and working at a grocery store, I find myself filling my nooks and crannies of free time with other things.  Like my family, friends, and boyfriend, for example.

Ideas for posts pop into my head daily, and I even start typing a lot of them up, but I never have time to finish them.  And unfortunately, I’m one of the kind that has to finish a post in one sitting or else I never come back to it.  I have drafts for posts sitting here from last March.  Honest to goodness.

But on this dreary November morning, sitting here with a cup of coffee, I just wanted to tell my beloved readers “Good morning. I’m still here.”


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I’m not a grown-up.

I have a confession to make.  My last post makes me really sad.  It just seems like it must have been written by someone wholly resigned to reality—that is to say, it must have been written by a grown-up.  If this is the case, I fear I’ve failed bitterly.  I never want to grow up so much that there is not a child’s voice within me somewhere, because that innocence and wonder is also hope.  Hope is nothing if not the voice of a child.

But to steal words from one of my favorite thinkers,

I know I’m not a hopeless case.

And, this, my dear readers, is how I know:

Not too long ago, I was watering some plants—a tomato plant on the back porch first, and then some basil in the kitchen windowsill—when I had a brilliant thought.  In fact, I daresay it may have been one of the most brilliant thoughts I’ve had in a good long while.

What if tomatoes grew on basil plants?

I was immediately lost in the delicious implications of such a reality.  Of course I would move to Italy and buy a big piece of land for growing my precious tomasil plants.  But tomatoes and basil are nothing without mozzarella, so naturally I’d raise dairy cows too.

And that’s how I know there’s still a child in my soul somewhere.  It’s a cold, hard fact that real grown-ups don’t ponder career opportunities offered by cultivating imaginary plants.

I still play Super Mario Kart like a seven year-old.

Come to think of it, there are lots of ways I know I’m not hopelessly grown-up yet (and may I never be!).  For one, I’m completely mesmerized by red onions.

Yes, red onions.

Have you ever looked at one up close?!  They’re amazing!  The purple color isn’t sort of painted all over the onion.  It’s made up of countless little dots of pigment, just like ink on a magazine page.  I swear the guy who invented the dot matrix printer had to have been inspired by a red onion.

And you know what else blows my mind?  Thunder.

“The sudden increase in pressure and temperature from lightning produces rapid expansion of the air surrounding and within a bolt of lightning. In turn, this expansion of air creates a sonic shock wave which produces the sound of thunder, often referred to as a clap, crack, or peal of thunder.”

I got that from Wikipedia, the foremost authority on everything.  And when a kid in elementary school asks their science teacher (or when I ask my meteorologist friend, Brad) what causes thunder, that’s probably the answer they’ll get.  Or if they ask their parents, they’ll probably just be told, “It’s when the clouds bump into each other.”

Now, if you ask me, both of those answers are completely preposterous.  The first explanation just lost me entirely.  I mean, seriously, sonic shock wave?  Now I think you’re just making stuff up.  And as for the second explanation, Mom and Dad, how dumb do you think I am?  They aren’t watermelons, for Pete’s sake.  They’re clouds.  And you want me to believe they make that kind of noise when they bump into each other??  No, I think I’m going to have to side with my Granny on this one.  “There goes the ‘tater wagon,” she’d always say after a roll of thunder.  And it seems a much more satisfying explanation than sonic shock waves.  No matter how old I get, when I hear thunder, I think it sounds just like someone’s dumping a wagonload of potatoes.

The bottom line is that my imagination is just far too unbridled for me to be a true grown-up.  And that’s not to say there aren’t any “grown-ups” running around with unbridled imaginations, because all the best ones are.  There just aren’t many.  But I certainly plan to be one.


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