Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Year In Review

I don't even know where to begin when trying to recap this year. So I'll start with what I said on Facebook and Instagram, and maybe that will inspire me.

"2016 was nothing like I thought it would be. It was harder than I expected, more exhausting than I expected, had more tears than I hoped it would, and broke my heart more times than I knew was possible. But you know what? It also brought the start of a new chapter, built new relationships, helped me restore and strengthen some of the ones that matter most, gave me memories I wouldn't ever give back, taught me more about who I am and the person I want to be to others, and showed me how to love harder each and every day. So no, 2016 hasn't been my favorite year, but it's brought lessons and experiences that are part of the greater picture of my life. I learned a while ago that I want God to write my story, so here's to seeing what He has in store for 2017."

And really, 2016 was not a very good year for me. But it wasn't all bad. Even though my seizures were a mess, I still got my freaking Master's degree, with Honors, and it was a semester by semester struggle to pay for it and get through it. Even though I lost two of my best friends, I restored one of those broken friendships, made new friends, and strengthen old relationships. Even though I had to leave NYC and wasn't happy about it, it turned out to be a good thing I could be here to take care of Mom, I got to see some of my soccer boys play, and I've gotten to spend more time with Matt. I guess age is providing me with some perspective. Go figure.

I know I've had much harder years than this (hello, brain surgeries), but for some reason, I've felt much more tired than I have in recent memory. That's why I've stopped blogging with any regularity. It's like I'm so tired I've not only run out of things to say, I just don't have the motivation or concern to even try to say anything. The stress from so many different things and so many new things on top of the things that already stressed me out in previous years just wore me down to the point of utter exhaustion.  Here's hoping I find some rejuvenation in this new year. If I get into a PhD program, I'm certainly going to need it.

That's why I pretty much failed at the mission I put my behind my "One Word": enough. In short, the mission was two-fold in that I wanted to boost my self-confidence and grow closer to God. The first part was more successful than the second. I went on my first real dates and finally had some new experiences with guys. I figured out that maybe my friends maybe do have a clue what they're talking about when they constantly say that a guy can actually find me beautiful. But I think those things, combined with the previously mentioned exhaustion, stood in the way of me growing close to God like I wanted to and placing my self-esteem in what God says about me rather than my relationship status or attention from guys. I want to be different. That's why one of the goals I am focusing on in 2017 is to teach myself the discipline of daily Bible reading. I don't do that like I should, despite the fact that in my gut I know that it's the only way to truly deepen my relationship with the Lord. I want that. I need that. I believe the self-confidence will naturally come with that. There are some other goals that I'll talk about in my 2017 One Word post, but this is the main one.

Ha, I just at my 2015 Year In Review post and realized that I started that by saying 2015 was nothing like I expected, either. That seems to be the overwhelming theme of my life, especially since I graduated high school. For all the ways I dream of my life going and expect it to go, God usually goes in an extremely different direction. And more often than not, I don't like it at the time, but looking back, I can see why it was a good thing and the right thing, and I'm reminded that everything really is so much better when I don't fight God being in control of my life. Let's see if I can remember that should I be rejected from all of these new PhD programs.

I don't have a clue what this next year is going to hold, just like most of the events of this year took me by surprise. And year after year, I find myself becoming more and more okay with that.

I got to see Matt tonight (and on Christmas Eve, which is when this picture is from), so considering the only other things happening today were errands, a basketball game, and a football game, that was a pretty awesome ending to 2016 for. Check out my Instagram if you want to see a collage I posted, complete with a cheesy caption, about the two of us.

Happy New Year, friends. May peace, love, and joy cover you and yours no matter what this new chapter brings. I love you.

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit!

It was far too long to go without getting to hug this fella.

It really, really sucks only getting to see your best friend once a year, but when you do get to see them, it's Christmas morning levels of excitement.

Wednesday afternoon, Mom drove me to meet Clayton at the same Smithfield's that Mommom and I met him at last Christmas. It's a pretty accurate halfway point, and we both love their barbecue, so win-win.

We got there at about 1:15, and he and I sat there and talked straight until 3:00 when he knew that he had to leave to get home for a family dinner. We spent half the time discussing theology, because that's what happens with us, but honestly, it was just so perfect. Yes, we talk quite often on text and FaceTime, but it's just not the same as getting to actually see them in person and hug him.

After everything that's been going on with Mom, and me, and the family, and school applications, and everything else, this was exactly what I needed to lift my spirits. When I talked to my therapist that night, I even told him such, that for the first time in a long, long time, I felt truly peaceful. What sweet relief from everything else that has been happening.

(The title is this hilarious Southern saying he taught me.)

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Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Reality of Chronic Pain

I woke up in severe pain today, much more pain than I was in yesterday, and with no explanation. Most people would probably be confused as to why this happened, but at this point in my life, it's something I'm quite used to. When you live with chronic pain, days sometimes throw really awful surprises at you.

When your pain flares up, the simplest things require giving yourself pep talks, from sitting up in bed to standing up to go to the bathroom.

When your pain flares up, you want to sleep to get away from it, but your body won't let you sleep because you can't get comfortable in one position for very long.

When your pain flares up, your joints get stiff and beg to be moved, but moving them hurts so badly that you're scared to do it.

When your pain flares up, you lay still trying to rest while stressing about everything you should be doing that day.

When your pain flares up, every single step is a calculated move.

When your pain flares up, you have to decide what is worth getting up and moving for.

When your pain flares up, you sometimes forget what it feels like not to be in that much pain.

When your pain flares up, you practice putting on a face around others so everyone you see believes that you're okay and won't worry.

You learn not to talk about it because you don't want to sound like you're complaining. And that's not what I'm intending to do here. I just want people to understand that there are a lot of illnesses and health conditions that you can't see that still do exist. There are plenty of people suffering on a daily basis who push their pain to the side and out of other people's view because they don't want it to become other people's problems.

Here's the truth: I do that on a pretty much daily basis. People think I deal with this stuff so well, and that I seem to have my stuff together more than most, but I don't. Trust me. I really, really don't. I just learned how to hide it years ago when I came to the realization that this pain wasn't going away. I used to hide it because I didn't want it to define me, because I don't want it to hold me back. Then, it became more that I hid it because I finally had real friends and I didn't want to annoy them or make them feel sorry for me. I wanted to be normal, even though I knew that I really never would be.

I hurt. All day every single day. Some days more than others. That is just the reality. I've spent so long hiding it and plastering a smile on my face on the bad days, and I'm at the point where I just don't want to do that anymore. Not because I want pity; please, whatever you do, don't start pitying me. I don't want to pretend anymore. I don't want people to think I have my life under control. Sometimes it feels like life is controlling me.

Do I recognize that I still have plenty of blessings in my life? Yep. You bet I do. It's those blessings that keep me going. But those blessings don't make this part of my life suck any less. And I know I'm not the only one like this, but I can only share my story, and if my story can help spread some empathy in the world, then at least it will do some good.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." - Wendy Mass

I wanted to make this post more eloquent, but well, reality isn't always pretty, so here you go.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

When unexpected things bring back the most awful feelings.

Confession time: I'm a fan of One Direction.

I know. I know. It started about a year and a half ago. Part of me is ashamed of it. The other part is like screw other people's opinions haha.

For those of you who have blocked this boyband from your mind, this is Louis Tomlinson.

He's the oldest of the band, and I'm not entirely sure why, but he's been my favorite since I started following them.

Well, this past Wednesday, his mom Johannah/"Jay" died from leukemia. They actually kept her diagnosis private, so none of the fans knew she was sick until the press release from her husband announcing her death. And this may sound silly, but this has hit me really hard, much, much harder than I could have ever predicted.

Louis has six younger brothers and sisters, two of whom are only two years old. My heart especially hurts for them because I know what they will be going through in the future with having to rely on stories in order to know someone who is literally half of them. I know what it will be like to grieve for and miss someone you never really got to know.

And Louis. I've watched a lot of interviews with him since I became a fan of the band, and if there was one thing that was clear, it's that Jay is the most important person to him. He was the textbook description of a "mama's boy" and couldn't have been prouder of it. And if you looked at Jay's social media, you could see she was his biggest fan (as she was for all of her kids). That's the relationship I want to have with my kids one day.

Tonight, just three days after losing his mom, Louis got up on stage at The X Factor UK and performed his first solo single since 1D went on hiatus a year ago. He wrote the song, "Just Hold On," for his mom, and it was announced that it was one of her last wishes for him to continue on with this performance, so he did. This not-quite-25-year-old stood up and performed in the midst of unimaginable pain and sang his heart out for millions of people (literally millions - there was an international livestream for his performance), and it was the most beautiful thing I have seen in a long time. That immense bravery, that level of strength mixed with utter vulnerability, it's beyond comprehension to me.

Watching the video of his performance brought back some hard feelings, feelings I didn't think I'd have to deal with just because of the loss of a celebrity's mother or 17+ years into this whole grief thing. But man, this hurts. I miss my dad so freaking much, and looking at the tears in Louis's eyes after his song ended made me feel actual pain in my chest. And I get angry sometimes, wondering why some families get to stay in tact and others don't, why some good people get healed on earth and others have their bodies and minds taken and destroyed by cancer. I wonder if I'll ever let go of that question, or if it's something I'll be holding onto until I'm meeting Jesus face to face. I've never grieved for a celebrity as hard as I have for Louis's mom, and I think it's because we're about the same age and I know exactly what he's going through.

The sun goes down and it comes back up
The world, it turns no matter what
If it all goes wrong
Darling, just hold on

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

God Bless America

Two weeks gone.

At first, I had nothing to say.

Then, the election happened, and I had so much to say I didn't quite know how to process it.

I had so many people telling me how I should be reacting in the aftermath of the election being called for Trump...Here was my response on Facebook.

Don't tell me to be okay right now, when I and people I desperately love have so much at risk.
Don't tell me not to be scared right now, when I have more than enough to be rightfully afraid of.
Don't tell me not to be angry right now, when I feel as though the God I love and the Gospel I treasure have been twisted and abused.
Don't tell me to be hopeful right now, when our next president did nothing to inspire hope for the entirety of his campaign.
Don't tell me to be polite and respectful right now, when a lack of politeness and respect is what got us here.
Don't tell me not to be sad right now, when the country claiming to be the greatest on earth has proven it is still controlled by hatred and fear.
Don't tell me to be accepting of this right now, when this is not what I believe in and pains me to my core.
Don't you dare tell me, or anyone upset today, what to feel. Let us grieve. Then, we will fight.

Lecrae said something that really resonated with me: "I know that God is in control. But so did Jesus when he wept after the death of Lazarus." Jesus knew he was going to bring Lazarus back to life, and he still cried. I know God is still the same, but I'm still scared and upset.

As a political science nerd, I'm really frustrated with the Electoral College, to be honest. We're living 2000 again, except way worse. The Electoral College is something the founding fathers put in place literally because they did not want the entire "average" populace to be able to elect the president and fall prey to a demagogue like Trump (hey, Alexander Hamilton!). So even though 570,000+ more (and counting) people voted for Hillary Clinton, we're stuck with Trump. Yes, this is only the fifth time that the winner of the popular vote didn't win the Electoral College, but it shouldn't really be a surprise. The system was set up from the beginning because a bunch of old, elite, white men decided not everyone was capable of or deserved choosing the president. Thanks to these dudes, climate change, women's rights, international relations, safety from guns, the right to healthcare, freedom of religion, LGBT rights, the free press, and more are all at grave risk.

I want to explain something, though: I don't disrespect people who support Trump's/Republican economic or foreign policy, etc., arguments. That requires thought and understanding. I know I have plenty of friends who voted for Trump who are also educated, so I won't stoop so low as to call them uneducated or ignorant. What I don't understand, what genuinely confuses me, is people, particularly Christians, who proclaim that they love everyone yet voted for a man who showed hatred and disdain for SO MANY. People's character may be defined by more than this vote and this election, but to me, voting for and supporting a man with this huge lack of a moral compass, who spent 17 months campaigning on hatred, bias, racism, and fear, says a lot about who people are. I don't understand. I don't understand how you can claim to love people and support hatred. I don't understand how Christians can claim to follow Jesus in one breath and support shunning, attacking, and demeaning the very people Jesus would spend time with in the next. I just don't understand.

There are so many stories of racial, religious, and sexually motivated crimes and harassment that have happened since Donald Trump won the election. Women being grabbed in public. Muslims having their hijabs and turbans thrown off. African Americans threatened with lynchings. Vandalism of minorities' property. White supremacist graffiti. Racial slurs being thrown. Nazi slogans shouted. And on and on. This new "great" America scares me to no end.

If you voted for Trump and don't want people to be angry with you for helping usher in the new acceptance and glorification of hate crimes in America or call you a racist/sexist/misogynist/Islamophobe/homophobe, etc., then do something to prove you're not. Stand up for the ones whose lives are being threatened. Say to the white supremacists that they don't get to win, even if they think they do. Call on the President-Elect to rebuke this rhetoric and these attacks again and again until he listens. Do something. Because if you helped pave the way for this, and do nothing to fight back against it or stop it when you know what is going on, then you're partially responsible. As late-night talk show host Samantha Bee said, if Muslims have to take responsibility for every member of their community, white people, then so do we.

I want to believe the best in people, but right now, I have a hard time doing that. I'm angry. Many of my friends are minorities in one way or another, and they're being threatened by people, many of whom use the name of God to justify it. I thought this country was better than racism and hatred and bigotry. I was heartbreakingly wrong and I'm terrified of the effect the next 4 years will have on this country.

But no matter what, I love my country. And I always will. Donald Trump and his people can't take that away from me.

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

We could be the greatest team that the world has ever seen.

Might as well fit in one more blog post before the end of the month.

Last Saturday, I got to go to Campbell for a soccer game and to see my boys!!

It was the one big event I'd been counting down to since I moved back here, so I was so, so relieved that Mom held up her promise and got me to the game. It was the last Saturday home game of the season, so she knew it really was the last chance, and how important it was to me.

The game was a heartbreaking last-second loss, and those sweet boys actually said they were sorry they couldn't "get the win for [me]." I told them that I was there for them, that the game was completely secondary. Really, if I just wanted to watch soccer, I could stay home with my computer. They're what is important.

I only got to see them for a short time because Mom and I had a late drive home and they were exhausted, but that was sweet enough. I got hugs and pictures (which they well know is enough to make me giddy happy), and I gave a few sister pep talks, and when I left and got to the car, Mom looked at me and said, "You're really happy, aren't you?"

And I was. So very happy. Those boys are my home; they're where I feel safest. It's funny, even Seth and Josh, whom I only met last year, are included in that. I can't explain it. All I know is that the bond I have with them is about as close to perfect as I could ask for.

Seth, me, Matt, Pepe

Josh, me, Matt

I'd go to the ends of the earth for these boys, so a two hour drive was nothing.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

This is the point where I start smacking my head.

Yesterday marked two months seizure free.

How do I celebrate?

By getting another 72-hour ambulatory EEG. Ha! At least this one is at my house.

Heck, even the guy who did the hookup came to my house, which was pretty sweet.

So he came yesterday afternoon at 1:00, and will be back Monday at 1:00.

I mean, in general, this is fine. There's only two annoying things about it.

One: I can't shower for three days. Gross.

Two: The itchiness rom the glue reaches an unbearable level within the first 48 hours.

Right now, the only part that really itches is my forehead. There are three leads stuck to my forehead with gel adhesive and tape. Obviously, I can't scratch at them or they can dislodge (one of them came off in my sleep last night) so my only option to attempt to alleviate the itching is by hitting where it itches.

So I sit here in my recliner, smacking my head. Repeatedly.

The video camera (because oh yeah, I have a video camera in my room for the weekend to watch me) is going to give off a very bizarre impression come Monday.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Here's a story about a girl.

There are a million things I could say about the "Trump Tapes," but anything I could say about how disgusting it is has already been said a million times, usually by people much more eloquent than me. It's hard for me to get my words out clearly when I'm kind of blinded with pain and anger.

So instead, I'm gonna tell you a story. A story I haven't told to anyone before this weekend.

Every fall, my town hosts a weekend-long event downtown called the Mullet Festival (mullet as in the fish, not the haircut, just to be clear). I haven't been in years due to being at Campbell and then in New York, but when I was younger, we'd go pretty much every year.

On Saturday night of the festival, there was a series of performances by various bands, some local, some the town has gotten to come specifically for the weekend. It was usually a pretty crowded, fun time. And in this town, by the time we were pre-teens, my mom would kind of let us wander around the main area, as long as we knew when and where to meet her. You don't really have to worry about things going wrong in this town; it's kind of the stereotypical small town in that bad things rarely happen, and people tend to watch out for each other.

Well, one of these weekends, I was either 10 or 11 (I don't remember exactly), I was wandering through the crowd of people, when I ran into a group of four Marines. (My town is about 20 minutes from the largest Marine Corps base on the east coast, so plenty of Marines live in this town or on the outskirts and come to the festival to hang out.) I've always looked much older in age than I really am, so I didn't look like a pre-teen, and these Marines immediately latched on to me. Despite my limited experience with seeing people drinking alcohol, I could pretty much immediately tell they were drunk, so I knew I needed to get out of there.

But it was far too crowded for me to just run, and as I tried to maneuver my way through the crowd, they followed me.

"Baby, where are you going?"

"Pretty girl, come back."

"We just want to talk to you, beautiful."

They were right at my back, pretty much, shouting these things over the music and grabbing onto my shoulders and arms, attempting to wrap their arms around my chest, anything they could get their hands on. Luckily for me, it was crowded enough, they were drunk enough, and I was strong enough that they couldn't get a real grasp on me. I'm still not sure how I managed to get away when they started trying to pull me backwards, other than sheer force of will. I didn't know anything about sex, but even at that age, I knew that guys take advantage of girls, especially when they're in groups.

By some miracle, after they followed me all through the crowd, I spotted my sister, who is 4.5 years older than me right at the same time as these much older and more attractive girls grabbed the Marines' attention. I'm still not sure if they were just trying to look out for me and get them off of me, or if they were just girls who thought guys in uniform were super attractive, but I didn't care. I took the opportunity and bolted. I didn't tell my sister, or my mom, or anyone what happened, but I sure didn't leave their sides for the rest of the night.

For a long time, I just blew it off as "oh, drunk guys do stupid things when they're drunk," but as I got into high school and learned more about sex, sexuality, and guys, I realized just how wrong it was. I know it's nothing compared to the assault and rape that a lot of women have to survive, but it was still traumatizing enough to me to think about what could have happened. I know now that if there hadn't been a crowd of people around, there would have been no way I could have gotten away from them.

This is why what Donald Trump said matters. I don't care if you want to say it was "just words." It is a microcosm of the prevalent American culture in which men believe that they are entitled to women's time, attention, and bodies. These Marines, without knowing anything about me, including my age, believed that they had the right to force me to stay and talk to them, and do God knows what else that they wanted. They didn't take my instant response of leaving as soon as they came toward me as a sign I didn't want to talk to them; they saw it as a sign they needed to follow me until I gave them what they wanted.

When a man kisses, or gropes, or grabs, or follows a woman without her consent, he removes her autonomy. He takes away her right to make decisions about what she wants and with whom she wants to interact. He reverts back to previous centuries when a woman was nothing more than property for him to own, not an equal, beautiful image-bearer of God. He distorts the idea of God-given rights and removes the humanity from a person standing right in front of him.

And when a man boasts about doing those things to women, he perpetuates the culture to other men around him, particularly the younger men, that doing it is not only okay, it's a sign of masculinity and power. Women become conquests, games, trophies, as though he who wins the most wins the game of life. And it isn't until men boldly stand up and show others around them that women are meant to be more than that that this culture will change.

Donald Trump has immense influence right now. He has millions of people who are not only following his every move, but who are supporting him wholeheartedly. And when stories like this comes out, and his idea of an apology is to include an attack on someone else, he is telling millions of men and boys who are watching him that his actions are okay and something to model their own actions after. Not only that, he's reminding women and girls everywhere, especially the millions who have been raped, assaulted, or molested, that their wants and desires don't matter. To willingly perpetuate rape culture and the reality of toxic masculinity on the largest political stage in the world is not only hurtful to so many, it's dangerous. It's dangerous not just for this generation, but for the generations to come who will learn from us.

To Mr. Trump, I refuse to buy into your reality. I refuse to believe that it's normal or okay for men to talk the way that you do/did. (I know plenty of men, and athletes who practically live in locker rooms - none of them would talk like that.) I refuse to accept the idea that I am less than you because of my gender. I refuse to relinquish my dignity, needs, and desires, to those of men and boys who have been taught they have the right to have me whenever they want. I refuse to sit back and allow this culture to continue without saying something. And it's by sharing my story and writing this post that I hope I might offer one more story and example of why what you said really isn't "just words." We are more than just objects for the taking, Mr. Trump. I hope one day you will understand that, or at the very least, that your sons will.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

I'll take the human ones any day.

Well, Hurricane Matthew has officially arrived. Surprisingly, the center of the state seems to have gotten it worse than we have down here on the coast, but it's still not exactly pleasant here. Downtown is getting beaten because it is right on sea level.

So I've been passing time with a lot of music, TV, and sports. There have been a couple good games that make me very happy.

First, the Campbell boys beat UNC Asheville, the conference leaders who were on a 3-0 conference streak, 2-1. UNCA came very close to tying the game on a penalty kick, but Matt, my little brother, made a gorgeous dive and saved it. The whole team was just on point. The offense was fierce as hell in the first half, and aside from the one goal, the defense was not letting UNCA get away with anything. It was beautiful. But hands down, the most amazing part of the game for me was Matt saving that PK. If you know anything about soccer, you know that it is very, very hard to block a PK. Besides that, he made several great stops on all of the other attempts that UNCA had to tie the game. I'm so proud of him. I call him Triple Time because he is just so good.

Then, today, the Wolfpack hosted Notre Dame. In a monsoon. Not joking. It was like a 100-yard game of slip and slide for 3 hours. So statistics were totally screwed for both teams, but the Wolfpack won out 10-3 after we blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. It was kind of funny, though, watching it on TV. You could see the guys just flying around. They'd fall and make splashes taller than they were. The balls were so hard for anyone to hold on to, even for our QB who had amazing stats coming into this game (he's from Phoenix, poor guy, this must be a shock to his system). But ahhh, then there's Matt Dayes. This dude must have the strongest thighs in the world. He's a running back and he can often get several extra yards even after he has two or three defenders hanging on to him trying to bring him down. He is easily my favorite Wolfpack offensive player. (Jack Tocho is my favorite defensive man, but that's for a whole different post.) Get this: Notre Dame had 113 yards of total offense for the game. Matt? Had 140. One guy had 27 more yards of offense than an entire team.  His goal is to get 1,000 yards rushing this season; he's already at 563 five games into a twelve-game season. I really really hope he doesn't get injured like he did last year; otherwise, he probably would have hit it last year.

These two boys are their own kind of hurricanes, and the only damage they cause is to their opponents. Yeah, I'll go with them. Mark, Luke, and John can come take care of the other one.

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

On friends who leave and the ones who stay.

How's this for weird? Go a month and a half without posting, and then have two posts in less than twelve hours. I'm an enigma.

I've been awake all night for numerous reasons, one of them being the unexplainable outrageous heartburn that will not leave me alone even when I'm laying in my recliner, and considering it's now early the next morning, let's just say that I've got a lot in my head.

For some bizarre reason, I've been thinking about the friends I've lost in the past couple of years. Or should I say "friends," because as Clayton says, friends who leave you were likely never real friends to begin with.

It's funny how when certain people are in your life, you can feel so certain that it's a good friendship, a solid friendship. You can feel confident that this is a person you can trust and that they will be in your life for a long time. You can believe 100% that you've found someone special, you can be so grateful and consider them and the friendship such blessings, and then boom.

You find out you're wrong.

So wrong.

So heartbreakingly wrong.

I can think of four people in just the past year and a half that this has happened with. I'm not gonna name names; that's not important. One of them, I know that I screwed up, but they promised me that they just needed space and we weren't done for good - nearly 8 months later, and I'm having a hard time still believing that.

The other three, though? Not a clue. No fight. No explanation. I just woke up one day and they...weren't there anymore. Each time, I've gone through the same process of wondering what I did to make it happen, what is so wrong with me that I made them leave, before remembering the beautiful truth that their decision to hurt me and leave without a word is on them, not me.  With the last person, I'm still working through that process. It's really recent.

I am a sensitive person. I feel things very intensely. I am full of second chances. I have a very hard time letting go, even when the other person already has. I know all of these things about myself, as well as the trouble these characteristics have gotten me into. But you know what? I'm not sorry for any of them. They make me the friend that I am to so many people who love and appreciate me just as I am.

The problem is, though, it's that last trait I listed that leads me to this blog post. It's been seventeen months, eleven months, and nearly eight months, (and six weeks,) and these people are still in my head. Instead of focusing on the friends that are here and have shown me so much love and support, my mind gets caught up in thinking about these people who didn't want to stick around. If there's anything I've learned in the past few years, really since I met my soccer boys, it's that I am worth more than needing to beg someone to stay and be my friend. I have found my dignity. And so it's not that I want to go and beg these people to come back so much as it is that I just want to know what happened. That's what drives me nuts. The question-filled silence echoes in my head like a monster waiting to attack as soon as my world quiets down.

But you know how I also said that I am full of second chances? What does it say about my view of my own dignity to know that if any one of these people were to come back, explain what happened, and ask for a second chance, I would welcome them back with open arms? I can tell you that now, even though the chances of any of them doing so are slim. I hate losing people, and memories, and I think it's because I hold on to the memories of when things were good with me and these four specific people that I want to get back to that. When things were good, they were really good, and I naively never expected to be smacked in the face with just how flawed they (and people in general) are.

I know it's possible, though. I know that it's possible to restore friendships that seem hopelessly lost. I know that because that happened this year, too. Things between me and another friend fell apart in an incredibly painful fashion, and when we stopped speaking, I really thought that was the end. A good while later, however, I did what I pretty much always do and reached out because I missed them and wanted to see if the bridge was completely burned...and they called me back. And we talked. And we came to a new understanding in our friendship. Now, several months after that, we both agree that while the three months that we weren't speaking were something neither of us would choose to relive, it made our friendship stronger, and reminded us of why we became friends in the first place. Yes, my guard is up more than usual. No, I haven't completely forgotten everything that happened. But at the end of the day, when we talk, I can feel the bond that we have, the bond that withstood the pain and fights and frustration, the bond we always said no one could break. And I'm so thankful to have my friend back, even if it is a new and slightly different chapter.

So yes, I know it's possible for any or all of those four people to come back into my life, but as I've gotten older I've learned the dangers of getting my hopes up when so little in this life is actually in my control. And other people's thoughts and actions are about as far out of my control as something can get.

So in the meantime, I hurt.

And I grieve.

And I question how long I'm going to keep grieving and whether or not I should still be grieving.

But I also remind myself of all the incredible friends I do have in my life. The ones who have prayed for and with me as I have faced health scares and surgeries. The ones who pick up the phone when I need them, even if it's just because I need to hear someone say they love me. The ones who take time out of their day to make me laugh when they know I need it, or to listen to me vent and cry when there's nothing else they can do. The ones who lift me up with their words of love, encouragement, and grace. The ones who are still here, who see me with all my flaws and know that I'm loving them the very best I know how.

But most importantly, I remember the love that I carry with me every second of every day that cannot be replaced - the love of my Father. The God who made me as I am on purpose and for a purpose. The One who sees me as nothing less than His princess, a masterpiece made in His image, clean, righteous, and beloved. The God whom I don't have to impress. The Father who will never love me more or less, no matter what. The One in whom I find rest from the heartache. The Father who promises that He works all things for my good. The God who promises that in Him, and in a relationship with Him, He makes me enough, no matter what anyone else says.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Life Now

Well. I definitely wasn't planning on disappearing for a month and a half. But things happen. And I frankly haven't been in the best mindset or had much to write about. Here's a recap:

- going away dinner with my church fam

- last Sunday at church where I was prayed over

- packing

- surgery prep

- surgery, which involved an awful several hours delay they failed to inform me about after Mom and I stayed up all night to be at the hospital at the crack of dawn, but a successful surgery that officially diagnosed me with endometriosis and removed what docs could find

- moved back to NC the day after surgery (thanks to church people loading the truck) (that was a fun 12 hour ride home)

- the week after surgery, I came down with a massive case of bronchitis and a sinus infection, and because my body rejects steroids now, it's been a month of breathing treatments trying to get over it

- I wrote my thesis

- I got an A on my thesis (!!!!!!!!!!)

- now, I'm trying to a) find online work to make some money while I'm stuck home for a year and b) figure out what schools I'm going to apply to for next year's PhD programs

I'm very lonely here. I have heard from practically no one up in NYC, and because I've been so sick and exhausted, I haven't had the energy to reach out to them. Thank God Matt is back in the area now. If I didn't get occasional visits from him, I would have absolutely no one outside of my very dysfunctional family.

I moved from a huge city where I could just walk out my front door and have endless entertainment, to a small town where you have to drive to see anything and I don't have a license or a car, and there's not that much to see anyway. The silence is not good for me. I have been getting way too caught up in my own head thinking about all the people I've lost and all the relationships that have failed and all the things I wish I could change but that I know I can't do anything about. And the fun part about it is that my life isn't going to be changing any time soon.

I did get a call from August today, which is the first time I feel like I've smiled when thinking about New York since I left.

I don't know. This is the way life is for now. I guess I better get used to it.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Only God could orchestrate a friendship like this.

Well, so much for the whole not ignoring my blog thing. Oops. What can you do? I'm here now. But last night was a wonderful night that I want to remember.

This is Al. I met him through my buddy August because they're both bouncers at a bar down the block. We've only known each other for a couple of months, but it feels like from the very beginning we've just clicked. He's made me feel so completely safe in a way that most people don't realize is really hard for me to find. Even though until last night we'd only ever spent time in person together standing outside his bar, we've had this connection in talking to each other that can't be manufactured.

He's someone that just shines light. No matter what kind of day I'm having, if I go and see him, as soon as I look at him, and he smiles, I can't help but smile, too. Anyone who knows me knows that a great smile is my favorite physical feature on a guy, but it's so much more than that with him. He shines because of how much he loves people. It's just who he is.

Last night, we just met up for a drink and sat and talked for a little over an hour. I felt like time crawled in the best possible way because it did not feel like it had only been an hour when he had to leave. We talked about everything, our stories, our pasts, politics and my thesis, history, our friendship, more than you could possibly think one could fit in an hour. I think I must have been beaming the entire time. He just has that effect on me. And when we instinctively reached out and grab each other's hands multiple times while we talked, or when he insisted on holding my hand on the way back to my apartment, everything just felt so right and normal and safe.

The craziest thing to me is that he is one of the people I am going to miss the most from this city, yet of all the people I'm really going to miss, he's the one I've known the shortest amount of time. Some people just make sense in your life from the very beginning; it certainly doesn't feel like I've only known him for two months. I'm closer to him than 90% of the people I've met in the past two years. He has done so much good for me in such a short amount of time.

I firmly believe that only God could orchestrate a friendship that has formed and strengthened as quickly as this one has. And while I don't know what the future holds and if or when I'll come back to New York, I know for sure that I am so, so lucky to have found him.

And the best part is that while things are going to change not being able to see each other every week, I know that no matter where we are, this isn't going away any time soon. We've already promised that much, and he's a friend whose promises I can actually trust.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

So then July happened.

Well. Wasn't planning on abandoning my blog for the month of July, but things happened, and I learned that the longer you go without doing something, the easier it is to continue not doing it.

So, let's recap, shall we?

I had a few weeks of seizure hell, but adding yet another medicine seems to be helping. Cross your fingers it stays that way.

I severely sprained my wrist in one of those seizures, which is a large part of the reason why I wasn't blogging, because typing hurts really, really badly and takes a lot of energy.

I'm incredibly behind on my thesis, largely for these two reasons, and it seems like I'm being ghosted by my adviser and department so I can't get an answer on when exactly it's due which is just adding to my stress.

I finally got my surgery set up for August 19th, which is later than the doctor originally told me it was going to happen. I cannot wait for that day to get here because I am miserable from pain.

My depression has been rearing its ugly head for these reasons, but one other one is the biggest reason for it. I'm leaving New York. On August 20th. I don't really have a choice. The financial situation in the family that's been going on for the past year and a half is no longer sustainable, and despite me sending out a crapload of resumes, I didn't get a single callback. So no money. No job. No PhD program acceptance. I have to go back to North Carolina. And I hate it. I HATE IT. I thought when I moved up here, I was finally freeing myself from all of the negativity and drama back there and planned on never going back, and two years later, here I am, headed back to the place I never wanted to live again.

Don't get me wrong. There are things I will be happy about seeing/having/doing regularly again. Like my mom and Blake. And the food. And the beach. And the sports. But the idea of leaving everyone I love here is heartbreaking to me. So I'm really not okay right now. Time is running out quickly in the city I love with people who mean the world to me and it is making me very very sad.

So yeah. That about sums up July. I'll try not to abandon my blog in August.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Wake up, America.

Alton Sterling. Philando Castile.

I won't reiterate the horrific tragedy of what happened to these two men, because it honestly makes me sick just thinking about it and I can't get those videos out of my head.

In no uncertain terms, those men were murdered. And it's heartbreaking. It's disgusting. It's wrong. It's terrifying. It's beyond comprehension.

And it's not going to stop until people wake up to the very real problem of racism that is still rampant in this country. To my friends who are POC, I am so, so sorry. I am sorry for the fear you must feel on a daily basis. I'm sorry for the lack of safety and acceptance you are given just because of the color of your skin. I am sorry for the people who hate you. I am sorry this society is so undeveloped we haven't moved past racism. I am so sorry.

No, I do not hate cops. There are many times in my past that cops have rescued me and loved ones from dangerous and volatile situations. I respect good, hardworking cops for what they do and what they risk. And just like not all men are rapists or misogynists, no, not all cops are bad cops or racists, but you know what? THERE ARE WAY TOO FREAKING MANY THAT ARE. Two innocent black men were gunned down for no reason by white men with badges, men who were supposed to serve and protect them. And cops like this make it really freaking difficult to recognize the cops that aren't like them.

I got backhandedly accused by a woman that I know, whose husband happens to be a cop, of not caring about cop killings because I'm outraged by what these particular cops did. NO NO NO NO NO. Calling cops who execute innocent black people murderers does not mean I endorse the murders of cops. I am just as sad about the snipers who killed cops at a protest in Dallas tonight. Murder is murder. Murdering these cops is just as much murder as what happened to Alton and Philando.

I've managed to lose friends in the past 48 hours because of what I have posted on my Facebook and Twitter over all of this. But you know what? I frankly don't care. I refuse to stay silent when my friend has to explain to her 6 year old adopted from Africa why he'll have to take extra caution not to draw suspicion or negative attention; black children are having their innocence ripped away from them. I refuse to stay silent when I see ignorant comments from police apologists who ignore reality to stay safe in their own bubble where their white privilege is a made up war from progressives and Democrats. I refuse to stay silent when my friends talk about feeling like they need to wear full-body bulletproof suits sos as to not be "shot down like wolves." I refuse to stay silent when I have nightmares about some of my best friends, my brothers, being murdered by cops and wake up realizing that those aren't so farfetched dreams. Silence adds to the problem.

But those snipers in Dallas who shot 11 cops, killing 4 of them and leaving 3 others in critical condition, they are not the answer. They are also adding to the problem.

Wake up, people. Racism is alive and well. Black people are disproportionately attacked by police. Not all cops are bad. No one, cop or civilian, deserves to be murdered. And it's up to us to stop it. Each and every one of us.

How many more innocent people have to die before we wake up and do something about this? I'm scared to see what it will take.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016


I got to talk to my favorite British boy today.

And the best part is that he has a Mac now which means he has a webcam which means I actually got to see his face for the first time while talking to him in I don't even know how long.

But that's not even the really good part. The part that made me feel so good is that I think this is the first time all week that I've really smiled. And by "really smiled," I mean that I was happy enough to forget about everything else that has been weighing me down.

There's more than 3300 miles between us and it's been nearly 8 years since we've seen each other in person, but Jay and I still have this incredible bond that I'm so thankful for. Sure, we've had rough patches and times when we haven't spoken for a bit, but when we do, we just instinctively know how to help each other and what we need. It sounds weird to say this when we have so much time and distance between us, but he really is one of the people I trust most in this world, and I'm pretty sure he'd say the same. I truly don't know where I'd be without him. When I say that my friends are what keeps me going when things are hard, he's included in that.

It was only about 35 minutes today, but this did me so much good. And when I thanked him for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to get on and chat for a bit because it helped, he told me "anything for you."

I'm so thankful for my British love. I know that this bond is one for the ages. And that is a beautiful gift.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Now, I continue to wait.

I went to the doctor yesterday. To my surgeon Dr. H, specifically.

It was a combo post-op/let's discuss what to do next that won't kill you appointment.

I wish there were more exciting things to update about but my life is pretty much this crap and job searching.

In short, I have to go to a new surgeon, Dr. B, because Dr. H does not do open abdominal surgeries, and there's not a snowball's chance in hell we're trying a laparoscopy again.

Dr. H is going to call Dr. B this week and inform him on my case and the whole cardiac arrest thing. She's also going to see if there's any way I can get in to see him before next Friday the 8th, when I already have an appointment set up, but that's not a guarantee.

So I'll see him, then set up a new surgery for as quickly as I can get fit into his schedule.

The only unnerving thing about the whole appointment was that I learned my heart was actually stopped closer to two minutes than one, but what can you do? I am alive now.

After that, I went to my regular women's health care doc at the student health center to get the referral for the new surgeon, and I begged her into giving me some Vicodin because I almost passed out in Dr. H's office because of the pain from this week.

I know July 8th isn't really that far away, but I'm so tired of living in this pain all the time. And I'm just praying that it doesn't take weeks for Dr. B to get me into his surgery schedule.

Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying and waiting.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Not My Time Yet

The surgery on Monday didn't go like we planned, to say the least.

And by that, I mean they couldn't even do the surgery. Because it was a laparoscopy, the first step was to inflate my stomach with gas. Usually, when they do this, a patient's blood pressure and heart rate slowly decrease to a low level and remain there during the surgery.

Well, with me, the queen of freak extreme reactions, my heart rate went from 60+ to 0 in just a few seconds.

Yeah, zero.

I flatlined.

I was clinically dead for about a minute, until they managed to restart my heart with drugs and chest compressions.

Needless to say, they stopped the surgery there. I woke up from the anesthesia as they were wheeling me to the post-op, and I remember my first thought being "I should be in a lot more pain than this." Not long after that, the anesthesiologist started talking, and I could only catch bits and pieces of what he was saying, but those bits and pieces were plenty.

"couldn't do the surgery" "heart stopped" "a minute" "epinephrine" "chest compressions"

It's hard enough to figure out where you are when you're coming out of surgery. That's one hell of a wakeup greeting. I immediately started sobbing, but they had an oxygen mask on me, so everything was super dry, so there were no tears, just my whole body shaking. It was...not pleasant. Holly could barely speak when they brought her in there and I told her what happened.

They kept me overnight to monitor my heart and run a couple of tests, just to make sure that my heart was okay and that this was indeed just a rare extreme reaction to the gas. I figured it would be, because I've never had a problem with my heart, surgically or otherwise.

Once I got upstairs, I had to deal with this crazy old lady roommate, so it was about an hour before they moved me and I actually got somewhere comfortable. She was screaming because some friends of mine from church called to pray over me, even though I had headphones in and was speaking barely above a whisper. The nurse was in and out doing things, so I even confirmed with her that I was not being loud (because I know that sometimes I can be without realizing it), and she looked at me and mouthed "No, I'm so sorry." So they moved me to a different section of the floor where I didn't sleep (because I never do in hospitals more than a couple hours) but I at least had some peace and could talk to people without being screamed at. Hospitals make me incredibly anxious when I'm there alone. I was not going to apologize for talking to my people.

The best part of the whole time was getting to FaceTime with two of my soccer boys. They were so, so sweet, and it was really humbling to see how worried they were about me. Don't get me wrong; obviously, I knew they love me, but I just never really thought about how important me being in their lives is to them.

The first one told me that losing me was something he didn't even want to think about as a possibility, and so I just tried to reassure him like "Hey, I'm right here. I'm fine. I'm right here." I was kind of cracking jokes and trying to laugh it off because that's generally how I process stuff like this at first, and he said "You're suppressing the emotions, aren't you? This is the last thing you should be laughing off." I told him that if I didn't laugh, I'd cry, and not long after that, he started crying. That broke my heart. This kid is the type of guy who is always Mr. Stoic, cool, it's all good. The only times I've seen him remotely upset outside of a soccer game loss are the first time he saw me have a seizure and the night he found out I got bullied. So to see him that emotional just at the idea of something happening to me was so, so humbling. The cutest part was that he was practically falling asleep while on FaceTime, but he refused to hang up until he knew that the second guy was awake and was going to call me. He told me "I can't leave you alone right now," but I think that was more for his own sanity than it was for me.

The second brother called me while I was saying goodbye to the first one, and I ended up going out in the hallway to talk to him because at this point it was really late. He told me some of the same things the first one did, about how badly it scared him when I sent him the first text about my heart stopping. He said he and the first guy (they're close friends) had texted each other when they first got my message freaking out. He told me that he refused to let himself cry all day until he got to talk to me because he thought that if he did, he wouldn't stop. That made me feel so bad for scaring them like that, but again, it was just so humbling to hear that stuff from him, about how losing me or something happening to me would kill him. He told me some of the reasons why I was so important to them, and it was honestly so mind-boggling to hear it spelled right out for me. Like I said before, it wasn't that I didn't know they love me, because of course I do, I just didn't really realize how important having me in their lives is to them. They really would miss me if I was gone, and that's something that is incredibly humbling for me, especially because I spent so long before I met these boys really feeling like no one would care if I disappeared. I'm so lucky to be so loved. Anyway, this second brother and I basically spent the rest of the time just cracking jokes and laughing with each other, which is the norm for us, I think because he just didn't want to let himself get emotional over what happened.

I texted them the next morning to let them know nothing had happened overnight, and they told me thank you. Not even kidding.

Tuesday was when the reality of it all really sunk in for me. I mean, I had the words of the anesthesiologist ricocheting around my head all night (I only slept about two hours), but it still sort of  seemed like a dream. No one really wants to think that would happen to them. I broke down crying after I talked to the doctors because it was sinking in for me, but my nurse gave me a hug and helped me calm down. And when I was getting the echocardiogram (basically an ultrasound of my heart) and the tech doing it said that "asystole" was in the order for the scan I was sort of like "Oh crap, this is real. This really wasn't some bad dream."

I got home at like 6:30 on Tuesday, and I was so physically, mentally, and emotionally drained that I basically just collapsed in the chair and didn't move unless absolutely necessary for the next three days almost. Everything about me was exhausted in every sense of the word, but because I was finally in the comfort of my own home and had peace and quiet, the nightmares came out.

All I could think when I was awake about was the fact that I was dead for a minute and barely more than 24 hours after the fact, I was home almost as if nothing happened.

And when I sleep, I've been having variations of the same nightmare: people are nonchalantly telling me I'm gonna die soon and there's nothing I can do about it, and I just keep saying over and over again, "I don't wanna die. I don't wanna die."

You know, I think I do a pretty good job most of the time at accepting the difficulties of the life that I have. A lot of the time, I can even honestly say that I'm grateful for it, because of the ways that I know it has helped people and given me ways to support others through their own struggles. At those points, it's easy for me to focus on the purpose that my life has.

But this week, I've really been struggling with understanding what the point of what happened on Monday was. Why did I need to have another near death experience? This was supposed to be a relatively minor surgery, compared to a lot of the other ones I've had. Is it not enough that I have all of these medical problems to deal with? Does treating them really have to be so freaking complicated, too? Isn't the story I have to tell great enough?

Basically, I'm at that point where I just really wish I could get a break from having to fight so hard to do the most basic things. I don't like feeling or sounding self-pitying, but that's the truth. I'm tired.

So little of this makes sense right now. I feel like I could be handling it a lot better if I just had a little bit of a clue as to what the point is. I know that God's ways are greater than mine and I'm not always supposed to understand, but I'm kind of going, "Can't you just give me a little bit of a clue?!" right now.

It's not a matter of me doubting my faith or anything like that. I know that God is good and faithful as much now as I ever have, and I am so, so grateful to have made it through that surgery alive.

I'm lucky to serve a God who is greater than medical standards and explanations, because God has made it clear that it's not my time to go yet. I guess that, for now, all I can do is try to make the best of the extra chance I've been given.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Love and Prayer

I made it through today without a seizure.

I think God knew how much I really needed to hear the sermon. It was on the power and importance of prayer.

And between today being Father's Day - and the fact that having my birthday, the anniversary of my dad's death, and Father's Day all in the same week can be emotionally draining - and having surgery tomorrow, I really needed to be in God's presence with my church family.

I was getting choked up during the sermon for some reason, and my friend Dorothea could tell something was up with me, so she just reached out and held my hand for the rest of the time Pastor Ben was talking.

But the most beautiful part of the day came after the service. A group of 9 or 10 of my friends literally surrounded me and covered me in prayer for my surgery tomorrow. The anxiety has been bad, so the fact that they were willing to do that meant so much. It was a beautiful reminder of not just how truly NOT alone I really am, but also of God's presence in the midst of all of this and with me as I head into surgery tomorrow. He showed me how much He loves me through them and the way they love me.

They are my people, and I am so lucky to have them. My prayer is now that I can love them (and others) the way that they have loved me. Deeply, selflessly, unconditionally.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Made it through another year.

Sometimes I just sit and stare at his picture. Trying to memorize his features. Hoping that maybe, if I stare long enough, I'll remember what it was like to see him in person. Wishing that pictures weren't all I have to go on for the person who is literally 50% of me. I miss him, even after 17 years. I don't think I'll ever stop, and I hope I don't, because his death is something that defined my view on the world and on relationships. I don't want to forget the little bit I have to hold on to. I can't change what happened, no matter how much I wish I could, so all I can do is hope and pray that he can see me and that I'm making him proud. I love you, Daddy.

RKJ ❤️ 1-29-62 -- 6-17-99 

P.S. Fuck you, cancer.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

24 feels good.

And it was a good birthday, too.

First thing this morning, I got up and went back to the Student Health Center to see a primary care doc other than the one I usually see in order to try to get medical clearance for surgery. Luckily, even though my usual doc was being stupid and giving me trouble and then lied to me, this doc was super awesome and spoke to me for like 10 minutes before she decided she thought I'd be fine and would fax over a clearance letter today. (I even confirmed this afternoon that she did it, so yay. No trouble there.)

I came back and ate a quick lunch and then went to a meeting with my buddy August and his boss. I think they're hiring me for a side job, which, I know, like I really need one more thing to worry about, but it's something I'll be good at and I could really use the money. So we'll see how that pans out.

Holly got home a little after 4:30, went to pay this month's bills, and then we went down the block to this Italian restaurant because I was craving their lemon pasta. My throat wasn't cooperating so I couldn't really enjoy it, but it was still good and it was sweet of her to take me.

After that, we went up to Midtown and saw An Act of God on Broadway. Holly surprised me with tickets. It was absolutely hilarious. Granted, as a Christian, there were pieces of it that I found slightly offensive, but I kind of figured that would be the case when I walked in. It was overall so, so good, though. I could not stop laughing. I've loved Sean Hayes, the star, since he was on Will & Grace way back when, and he was perfect in this role. We were a few minutes late because of traffic, so when he saw us being led down the aisle by the usher, he totally called us out. And I loved every second of it.

Then, we came back down to our neighborhood and had a couple drinks.

Finally, around 10:00, August and his girlfriend came over and ate ice cream cake with us. August got it for me for my birthday, and it was delicious. We ate and hung out and talked and I may or may not have rapped for them until about 11:20 when August was about to pass out on our couch.

I also got phone calls from some of my favorite people throughout the day, and like 15 minutes after August and his girlfriend left, Tunji FaceTimed me and we spent like an hour and a half basically just laughing at each other's jokes. It was a perfect ending to the day.

Here's to chapter 25.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I can't sleep.

As soon as I think I'm tired enough to actually sleep, I start thinking about Orlando again, and it doesn't stop.

All of these mass shootings make me sick, but for some reason, this one has affected me more than any other. Aside from the few hours that I was watching the Tony Awards, I've felt like I've been swallowing a lump in my throat and fighting back tears every second since I woke up Sunday morning and saw this terrifying news.

I think I was in shock at first, but as I read more details, it began to sink in.

And then the numbers came out. And the names. The names of the forty-nine people taken in this violence came trickling in, and it became very, very, sickeningly real.

It's one thing to know people died. It's another thing to see their faces and learn their names. To stare at their pictures and have it punch you in the face that these really were actual living, breathing human beings with real lives and loves and dreams, not just a story on the news.

I think about the one victim, Eddie Justice, who, while trapped in a bathroom by the gunman, texted his mother begging her for help. One of the last messages he sent her was "I'm gonna die." Can you imagine getting a text like that from your child? In the middle of the night? When you had no idea anything could be going wrong?

I think about the investigators who had to walk through that nightclub. As was told to CNN, they had to walk through scores of dead bodies listening to phones ring as family members and loved ones called desperately trying to check on them. And they couldn't touch the phones to turn them off or answer the calls because it was...well, a crime scene. So they just had to listen to the ringing while staring at utter carnage.

I saw a post online where one of the doctors at the trauma center that was, thankfully, only two blocks from the club, who posted a picture of his blood-soaked tennis shoes and talked about what it was like treating fifty-four injured people and how he's keeping those blood-soaked shoes as a reminder of how he felt that night.

Even just writing this out makes me think I'm going to start sobbing. I don't know the last time writing a blog post about a news story seemed to physically hurt me this much. Maybe it's because I have people whom I love very much who are part of the LGBT+ community or Muslim, and I just imagine one of them being inside that club. I don't know. What I do know is that this hurts.

But the one sense of peace I feel is that in the midst of all of this is that there are still stories of love coming out.

There was a security guard at the club who managed to get 60 or 70 (his estimate) out through a back door as they were all crammed into a back hallway, saving their lives before the shooter found them. And all he could say when the news called him a hero was, "I wish I could've done more. There are a lot of people dead."

There are pictures and videos of hundreds of people lining up outside of blood banks for hours in the Florida heat to donate blood. Veterans showing up to give blood. Muslim men, in the middle of their Ramadan fast and at a time when too many people will blame their religion as a whole, coming out in droves to donate. An Orlando Chick-Fil-A spending Sunday (the day they're supposed to be closed) cooking hundreds of chicken sandwiches and orders of fries to give to people waiting in the heat to donate. Women and children, including Muslim women in their hijabs, going around giving food, water, sunscreen, and other help to the people in the lines.

I could write an entire novel about gun control and how the fact that we had 173 mass shootings in the 164 days of 2016 including Sunday in Orlando scares the hell out of me. But right now, I'm tired, and I'm sad, and I'm scared, and I'm trying desperately to hold onto hope that we'll go back to a world where mass shootings aren't the norm - where first graders can go to school, and African Americans can go to church, and family and friends can go to the movies without being scared of being murdered.

I really wish my brain would turn off so I can sleep, but even in thinking that, I think about all the people down in Florida who probably haven't slept since the shooting and are going to be haunted by this. And it makes all my troubles just seem silly.

Lord, be near. I don't know what else to say but Lord, please come and be with the brokenhearted.

These are the brothers and sisters we lost:

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Stanley Almodovar III, 23
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36
Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29, of Jacksonville
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Amanda Alvear, 25
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26
Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Luis Daniel Conde, 39
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Cory James Connell, 21
Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Brenda Lee Marquez McColl, 49
Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
Frank Hernandez, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Antonio Davon Brown, 29
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
Akyra Monet Murray, 18
[one currently unnamed]

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Friday, June 10, 2016


So remember how at the beginning of last month I posted that the lady I'd been seeing in the Women's Health department of the Student Health Center was sending me to an OBGYN specialist/surgeon to be evaluated for endometriosis? Well, I finally got to have that appointment today.

Many times in the past when I've gone to a doctor for the first time, it was a fight to get them to listen to me and work with me instead of acting like they knew my body better than I did. So I was honestly expecting to go in and have to beg this woman to fully evaluate me and agree to do the surgery. It didn't exactly work out like that.

The whole appointment took like twenty minutes. No joke. First the PA came in, looked over the paperwork I had filled out, asked me like five questions, and then said that because I can't have an MRI because of my shunt, we should just go ahead and do surgery, so he explained the basics of the surgery and then said he was going to go get the doctor. A few minutes later, the nurse brought me into the doctor's office. I sat down, and she asked me if I had any questions about what the PA said or the surgery in general. I said no other than when could we do the surgery, and this is where it got a little hard.

She said that after looking at my file and listening to what the PA told her, she is really concerned about what could be going on and wants do to the surgery as soon as possible. So she told me she has an available slot on the 20th and wanted to know if I could get a medical clearance from my primary care before then. The 20th of June. As in less than two weeks away. She said to give her a few minutes and then she would come in and examine me, so I told her I'd go ahead and call and see how soon I could get in to get the medical clearance. Well, I guess because it's summer and most students are gone, but my doc who is usually very busy could get me in basically any time I was available Monday.

Then the doc came in, started examining me and asked if what she was doing was hurting and where. I said all over, and she stopped and basically said "Yep, you need the surgery." I put my clothes back on, walked out, got a folder of pre-admission info, was told someone would call me tomorrow or Monday with info about where and when I needed to be for pre-surgery bloodwork and whatnot, and then I was gone.

When I walked out of the building, I felt like my head was spinning because it all happened so fast. That, and I wasn't expecting them to be able to do surgery so soon. It took more than a month for me to even be seen because she is such a busy doctor, so I thought it would be a while before she had an open surgery slot. Nope. Second, I found out that the surgery is going to be more extensive than I thought it would be because they don't believe in using the lasers like I was expecting.

And also, despite the fact that I've done this so many times, it's still surgery. I like to put on a face for a lot of people that stuff like this is old hat for me and just doesn't bother me anymore, but it does. It bothers me. It's still hard and scary and overwhelming. This is the kind of thing that doesn't get easy to deal with no matter how many times you do it. So by the time I got in the cab to come back home, I was not in a great mindset.

Luckily, I had the forethought last night to have some of my brothers praying for me. So I texted two of them and called one, and long story short, I got pep talks that only my boys could give. When I got to spend close to half an hour on the phone with Tunji, we had each other laughing hysterically. Laughter really is the best medicine. Then I got a nice long FaceTime date with Clayton which is always good for the soul.

But after I got off the phone with him because we were both exhausted, the silence set in. And maybe it's just my 100% extrovert personality or the fact that silence is terrifying for this generation in general, but when I have too much silence, I get way too caught up in my head, and that's when things get ugly. After a couple hours, I was a mess. Enter this guy.

This is my buddy August. He's one of the bouncers at the bar on the block that I mentioned yesterday.  I jokingly like to call him "my knight in a shiny purple headband." He was Jesus in the flesh to me tonight and not only made me smile and laugh, but also helped me get back to a place where I could focus on the truth: God is good and faithful and loves me, and all of this is just one more chapter to add to the incredible story I've been given the chance to tell. He is one of those people that just shines the light of Christ without even trying because of how deeply and passionately he loves everyone he comes across.

God is good, y'all. God is so good. I'm so thankful that I am getting this surgery taken care of, but even more than that, I'm so incredibly thankful for all of the people who showed up today. Near and far, I am surrounded by people who are invested in me, in my physical and emotional wellbeing. These are the people who pick me up when I'm down and refuse to let me go when they see me slipping into the darkness. Second to God, they are the reason why I have the strength that people see in me. There's no way I could do any of this without my Father, but there's also no way I could do this without my people. They are my lifelines.

I'm going to bed tonight with a smile on my face, and ten hours ago, I don't think I could've thought that was possible. Thanks be to God.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Boys, Girls, and the Root of the Problem

When the prevailing thought is "boys will be boys," girls will be garbage. - Ann Voskamp

You can't be on the internet this week without reading something regarding Brock Turner and the Stanford rape case. And since you're reading this, it means you've been on the internet, which saves me from the task of recapping this disgusting horror show.

There are so many parts about this that simultaneously make me sick, sad, and furious:
  • the sexual assault itself
  • Brock's lack of remorse
  • the joke of a sentence
  • the judge's reason for the "slap on the wrist" sentence
  • the white privilege 
  • the father's defense of his son
to name a few.

It scares me to live in a world where not only can a college-aged guy rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, but his father will plead for leniency calling it "20 minutes of action in his 20 plus years of life." Now, I don't know what it's like for fathers to raise sons (obviously), but I do know that kids learn mentalities and perspectives from their parents. When a man tries to make his convicted rapist of a son out to be the victim in a situation that he and only he caused, it's pretty obvious where Brock learned to believe that that girl was his for the taking. Brock still refuses to apologize for the actual assault, saying only that he wishes he hadn't gotten drunk or gone to that party. He and his father both say the problem is alcohol use and sexual promiscuity, but last time I checked, plenty of people in college get drunk at parties - most of them don't rape people.

It scares me to live in a world where a judge can give a 20-year-old convicted by a jury of multiple accounts of sexual assault a sentence of six months in county jail (not state prison), with the high chance that he'll be out in three with good behavior, and three years' probation because he is concerned that a longer sentence would have a "severe impact" on him. The judge showed far more concern for the perpetrator's wellbeing than that of the woman whose life he wrecked. Her life will forever be marked by what Brock decided to do, but Judge Aaron Persky was more concerned on not messing up Brock too badly. Because oh yeah, he just so happened to be a Stanford alum and the former men's lacrosse captain. An African-American 23-year-old just got freed from prison after spending 9 years in for murders he didn't commit. That means he was sent to prison at 14. But Brock, an upper class white guy, gets six months in jail for a rape he actually did commit.

It scares me to live in a world where news sources reporting on a rape think it appropriate/relevant to post the swim times of the rapist because he happened to be a talented athlete. As someone on Twitter said: If someone is a rapist and an athlete, they're not an athlete who made a mistake, they're a criminal who can also swim. There are plenty of articles on this case that have spent time talking about how Brock was a good swimmer hoping to go to the Olympics one day, as if that is some cause for sympathy. It's no one's fault but his own that he is not going to go to the Olympics.

This is the thing, though: the problem isn't just rape. I was going to the deli the other night. A guy was sitting on a stoop about halfway between my apartment and there. He said "what's going on, baby?" and when I ignored him, he proceeded to follow me down the sidewalk until he saw me go in the deli and, I'm assuming, realized he wasn't going to get me alone. (Luckily, I live in a neighborhood where there is lots of activity every night, and I'm also friends with the bouncers at a bar on the block who would come to protect me at the drop of a hat.) The problem is that we live in a culture where a lot of guys think there's nothing wrong with following a girl down the sidewalk, or catcalling, or touching her without being given permission. And we can't seem to make them understand what's wrong with it because we can't make them experience what it's like to be objectified as something less than human, something put on this planet for the entertainment and enjoyment of boys masquerading as men. I know I'm not saying anything here that hasn't been said by countless others, but this is reality that can't be said enough until the culture changes.

Remember Elliot Rodger, the perpetrator of the mass shooting at and around UC Santa Barbara a couple years ago? He posted a series of 20 videos online outlining his plan for revenge on women because they wouldn't date him or pay him the attention he thought he deserved. He literally warned people in advance of his desire to commit violence. His parents called the cops when he was younger because they were worried, and the cops shrugged him off as being a "normal" male with pent-up aggression. Boys will be boys, right? Teenage boys want sex, right? Because authorities didn't see the situation for what it was, the girls in that UCSB sorority house that was his target stopped being college students living their lives and started being subjects who had failed to please this guy who thought he was owed their attention and their bodies because they were females and he was a male. This is toxic masculinity at its peak.

Or how about Chris Plaskon, the 16-year-old in Connecticut who stabbed Maren Sanchez to death in the hallways of their high school because he asked her to be his date to prom and she said no? This is another example of a guy believing that he is owed access to a girl and taking revenge when he doesn't get what he wants. If he couldn't have her, no one would, not even her boyfriend with whom she was already supposed to go to prom.

Teenagers have to learn this mentality from somewhere. And I'm not just blaming parents/fathers. I'm not saying blame parents for the actions of their children who commit murder. Guys also learn this from the world around them. Music that reduces women to bitches and hoes who are there to serve men with sex. TV and movies that create female characters that need boys/men to come in and rescue them and whose main job is to cook for the men and clean and do their laundry and take care of them. Advertisements that have women half naked for no reason other than to get the attention of men. Pornography, the ultimate scenario of women being used to fulfill men's fantasies and desires.

It doesn't have to be this way.

We can live in a world where the lives of women and girls are seen as just as valuable as those of men and boys.
We can live in a world where men honor women and their bodies as they were intended.
We can live in a world where girls don't have to be afraid to walk home alone at night or drink at a party with their friends.
We can live in a world where women are more than bitches, hoes, or objects to be salivated over.

We don't have to have Brock Turners who don't or can't see why taking sexual gratification from women who don't or can't say no is wrong. We don't have to have Elliot Rodgers and Chris Plaskons who think they are owed attention and sex from women.

But we have to do something to change the culture.

We can have people like Carl Arndt and Peter Jonsson, the two Stanford grad students who caught Brock in the act, chased him down, and held him until the cops arrived. One of them reportedly cried as he explained to the cops what he saw. They didn't blow it off as not being their business, and they didn't assume the girl wanted it. They thought something was wrong, and they did something about it. They are proof that it is possible to raise boys who respect women as fellow human beings just as valuable as they are.

We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'ma compel him to include women in the sequel. That's a line from Hamilton that has more necessary truth in it than you would think would come from a Broadway musical. Teaching kids that women were created equal to men is just the first step in changing the culture.

Lastly, I will leave you with this video. I don't know who this young man is, but he hits the nail right on the head. It's only about six minutes, and I implore you to please watch it.

"Stop telling women to watch their back, when we're the ones who stare at their backs as they walk past. Stop telling women that it's their fault, when we are the dogs who make the catcalls. Rather, speak up and teach boys and men these three simple things: Love people. Respect people. And do. not. assault."

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Monday, June 6, 2016

And I am not throwing away my shot!

Hamilton. If you haven't listened to the music from this musical, YOU NEED TO. IMMEDIATELY.

I'd heard about this phenomenon off and on, but never really paid much attention to all the buzz, because I knew there was no way I could get tickets (and that was before I realized they're sold out through, like, next November, unless you want to sell everything you own and buy them resale) (I just looked it up, the worst seats in the house go for like $1500 each resale) (not kidding). But then BooMama posted a video of the cast performing at the White House, and it was hook line and sinker I'm in love.

I have a YouTube playlist that is the entire album in order because I'm too broke to order the album outright right now, though I'm hoping someone will give me $20 or an iTunes gift card so I can get it because I would love nothing more to not be reliant on Wifi to listen to this.

It is seriously the best Broadway musical I've ever heard, and that's just from the cast album. I can't imagine how in love I would be if I could see it in person.

So you can fall in love with it, too, here are some of the first ones I listened, too, that pulled me into the Hamilton frenzy.

Hamilton is up for a record 16 Tony nominations. I'd say they'd win them all if a few of them weren't cast members competing against each other for the same category. I've never even watched the Tonys before. I will be this year, for sure.

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