ring in the new year

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Photo by Tessa Rampersad on Unsplash

We made it.

We actually made it through 2017.

I don’t need to remind you that 2017 was an exhausting year, right?

Even on a personal level, a lot happened–I mean, I got married, which is a pretty big deal.

But in the wake of extreme political turmoil and anxiety, the Internet has decided that 2018 is about LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE. Or, as my friend Chris put it, “SPICY BUSINESS, 2018.”

Take that as you will, but for me, spicy business is all about living your best and most adventurous life.  I’ve already gotten a new tattoo; yesterday, my friend and I took a yoga class at a local cat shelter. If that’s not spicy business, I don’t know what is.

 

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Usually, I’m extremely skeptical about New Year’s resolutions. The reasons vary: I hate how we act as though we can only set goals on the first of the year; I resent the fact that most resolutions fizzle out by the end of the month; and I tend to think that New Year’s Eve is an overrated holiday.

But there was something about 2017 that made me reflect on the past, as well as the wonderful things to come. Here’s what’s on the horizon for 2018:

A new home.

Drew and I are planning to stay in Atlanta, but we have been toying with the idea of our future home for a while now. While I do love our current house–it is full of so many memories and so much laughter–Drew owned it before we even started dating. This year, we hope to move into a home that we choose together.

And maybe I’ll get my Beauty and the Beast-esque library.

Adventures with people I love.

Drew and I had an adventure-themed wedding because we think our marriage is an adventure…but we also want to see the world together. We’ve been talking about visiting Iceland for AGES, and today, we booked a flight for August.

We’re also planning to join our friends in New York, so Drew will finally be able to experience one of my favorite cities!

Later this year, my mom and I are planning to spend a weekend in Asheville, and I still need to visit Xan in Chicago. It’s turning out to be a busy year, but how could it not be?! There are so many places to see! (#SPICYBUSINESS!)

A regular yoga practice.

Exercise and I have never had the best relationship. I hate running and most forms of cardio; gyms make me self-conscious at best and anxious at worst; and, to be perfectly honest, there are just other things I would rather do. Binge watching Netflix is just more fun, okay? LET ME LIVE.

Enter yoga. My first introduction to yoga was during a high school P.E. class, and since then, it’s been a constant in my life. An irregular constant, but a constant nonetheless–whether it was on our Wii Fit or a YouTube video, yoga has always appealed to me.

Because of this irregularity, I know that my body functions much, much better when I take time to move and stretch. When I start complaining about back and neck pain, Drew suggests that I start doing yoga again. And he’s always right.

But yoga is a spiritual practice–it rejects the idea that the body is inferior to the spirit. I often need to remind myself of the connection between my physical body and my spirituality; after all, I believe that God created our bodies and wants us to take care of them (not to mention that bodies are especially significant to Christian theology). Where better to practice this than on the mat?

Writing.

There are times when writing feels as natural as breathing: I get inspired and knock out a poem or a blog post in record time.

But lately, writing has been more like swimming. I’m racing against the clock, pushing through the deepest waters, and my lungs are screaming for a chance to exhale.

I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid of sounding less eloquent and poetic than I’d like and I’m afraid whatever novel I pursue will die with the five thousand other stories that are rotting in the graveyard of my hard drive.

So, I make things easier on myself.

I leave everything undone.

I know that this is not a good reaction to fear. It isn’t good for anything, except making myself feel worse as the year goes by.

This year, I want to remind myself that writing is not only my passion, but it’s also a process. It’s often a slow process. But that’s okay, because I never want stories to end, anyway.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

-Shannon Hale

What else?

Less burnout. More tattoos. More magic. More books. More light. More love.

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Happy New Year, sweet friends. I hope and pray that it’s one of the best. ❤

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Newlyweds, Part II: Honeymoon Adventure!

To read about our wedding ceremony, read Part I here

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It is no secret that I love all things Disney. But when I added ‘Disney World’ to our list of honeymoon options, I didn’t think it would actually happen. Fortunately, Drew loves theme parks and roller coasters as much as I do, so he agreed to go to Disney World as long as we could go to Universal Studios, too.

Obviously, if your fiancé suggests adding another theme park to your trip, you can’t say NO. Like, pull my arm, why don’t you?

Our wedding took place on a Saturday night, and we left for Orlando Sunday morning. I think if we had a chance to do it all over, we’d wait a day or so–traveling right after wedding festivities is pretty exhausting. At that point, I was powered by pure excitement…BECAUSE WE WERE ABOUT TO RIDE THE MAGICAL EXPRESS, Y’ALL.

And it is nothing short of magical: once you get to the Orlando Airport, you follow signs for Disney’s Magical Express. After you check in, a bus will take you to your Disney resort! No worrying about getting a Lyft or renting a car. They’ll even pick up your luggage and deliver it to your room (although if you are a paranoid control freak like I am, I suggest grabbing your luggage anyway).

As strange as it sounds, I think the hotel was one of my favorite parts of the trip. I’d been wanting to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for AGES, and our honeymoon was the perfect excuse to book a room. I loved it from the moment we walked in. The concierge complimented my nails, and when I oh-so-casually thanked her and told her I had to get fancy nails for our wedding, she handed us ‘Happily Ever After’ buttons to wear. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Our room overlooked the ‘savanna,’ so we spent a lot of time searching for animals. I usually want to do as much as I can when I’m on vacation, but staying in isn’t so bad when you can see giraffes and zebras from your window.

The next morning, we had breakfast at Boma before heading to the parks. Our plan was to spend half day of the day at Magic Kingdom before making it to Animal Kingdom for our first FastPass ride. Here’s what actually happened: we got distracted by watching the animals from our room,  so we only had enough time for a quick walk down Main Street …but we were able to buy our bride and groom mouse ears! SECOND MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Then, it was off to Animal Kingdom!

Since Animal Kingdom focuses on–well–animals, it’s more about attractions and animals than rides. The rides they do have, however, are totally worth it. Dinosaur scares the bejeezus out of me, but it’s still my favorite.

Drew’s favorite part: “Going to the Rainforest Cafe to have beer and French fries. It was fun to chill and just live our best beer life.”

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He also met a new friend!

The next day, we celebrated Halloween by visiting Hollywood Studios. It was the perfect day with just the perfect amount of spookiness. To get into the Halloween spirit, I wore my Hocus Pocus shirt and traded in my bride mouse ears for Halloween mouse ears (don’t worry–I still wore my button!). Drew didn’t wear anything special because he hates happiness, but he took this selfie with me.

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He’s such a good sport.

After lunch at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, we headed for my favorite ride of all time: The Tower of Terror.

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YOU CAN CHECK IN, BUT YOU CAN’T CHECK OUT. Just kidding. We were fine.

Drew’s favorite part: “Tower of Terror. Partly because the ride was really fun, and partly because of your excitement.”

At Magic Kingdom, WE GOT TO CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN AGAIN! We were lucky enough to snag tickets for the last day of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it–kids and adults are allowed to wear costumes, and the Sanderson sisters put a spell on the entire party. Later on, there’s a parade and fireworks. Since we’re an #oldmarriedcouple now, we left after the parade…but we made up for it later by watching Stranger Things. Party hard.

Drew’s favorite part: “Buzz Lightyear!” [as in Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. We rode it four times.]

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We spent our last day at Disney World at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. I’m a sucker for Halloween festivities and Halloween, but our Epcot day might be one of my favorites of the whole trip. We went back to wearing our bride and groom mouse ears, and practically everyone we saw congratulated us. One elderly man told us to never go to bed angry, and then handed us a two-dollar bill. “As long as you have each other, you’re never broke,” he said.

Oh, and it should go without saying, but the food, wine, and beer was delicious. Epcot gets ALL the points.

Drew’s favorite part: “The Chinese restaurant. I got those pot stickers.”

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Now, I’m a bit of a Disney snob, so I wasn’t expecting Portofino Bay, our Universal Studios resort, to be nearly as amazing as Animal Kingdom Lodge. I was wrong. We may not have been see African wildlife from our balcony, but look at that view!

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We had two whole days to spend at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Not surprisingly, my favorite part of both parks was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I was able to visit Hogwarts a few years ago, but this was my first time visiting Diagon Alley and riding the Hogwarts Express.

I only freaked out a little. And by that I mean a lot.

One of the best parts about Universal is the Express Pass. If you are staying at a Universal Studios resort, you automatically get an Express Pass; you can also use it an unlimited number of times. So, obviously, we rode everything at least twice.

Except Dudley Do-Right. That ride shows NO MERCY.

Drew’s favorite part: “Hmm. Seeing how excited you were about Diagon Alley. You were so pumped. And also how we figured out the secret to the Men In Black ride!”

Y’all. We SLAYED the Men In Black ride. If you know the secret, we’ll have to go to Orlando together and discuss some serious strategy (to be honest, I’ll probably tell you the secret in person, but this ups the intrigue a bit and makes me feel really cool.).

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At the risk of sounding cliché, I completely understand why Disney and Universal are highly popular honeymoon destinations. The week went by way too quickly, but it was the perfect way to celebrate our marriage. I’m already itching to go back–do you think I can convince Drew to go again for a milestone anniversary?

Just kidding. I’m just happy that he’s the one I get to celebrate with.

Here’s to happily ever after, Drew. I lava you. ❤️

Newlyweds, Part I: Celebration!

Last February, Drew and I decided to take advantage of our long weekend and take a trip to Nashville. It’s a relatively short drive from Atlanta, after all–why not? We had so many adventures planned: coffee shops, live music, a day at the library…little did I know that our weekend getaway would become a pivotal moment in our lives.

I was oblivious, of course. We were snuggled up in our AirBnb room, watching How I Met Your Mother and laughing at the gang’s latest hijinks. I was reaching for the remote when Drew told me to wait.

And I saw he had a tiny box.

And then he said he hoped I would go on another adventure with him.

And then he asked if I would marry him.

I think you know what happens next.

I guess he's stuck with me. 🙃

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We settled on an October 2017 wedding date. It felt pretty ambitious, since I’m REALLY UNORGANIZED and I hate planing things, but it was perfect. We didn’t extend our my stress for a year (or more) and our venue was extremely helpful throughout the planning process. Plus, October is my favorite month, so our anniversary just gives us another reason to celebrate!

Our family and friends were especially phenomenal. For instance: Xan was my maid of honor and helped create our save-the-dates; Drew’s groomsman Chris designed our invitations; Erin made cookies for our wedding guests; and my cousin/BFF/basically sister/bridesmaid Alyssa did my makeup on the wedding day.

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Everyone in the wedding party also reminded me that I needed to eat and gave me lots of bread and peanut butter. Also, it’s also very hard to eat while people are doing your hair and makeup.

Our parents handled a lot of things we probably wouldn’t have given much thought to otherwise. My mom bought wedding favors and helped create centerpieces (my grandma also provided the books we used; the day of the wedding, our friends Anica and Cathi helped assemble everything!), She also convinced me that the bridesmaids and I should have bouquets…which was an A++ decision, because I found an amazing Etsy shop and the flowers were GORGEOUS.

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LOOK AT HOW CUTE MY MOM AND MY AUNT KRYSTAL ARE. JUST LOOK.

My dad found our transportation vendor, and on the wedding day, he picked up the desserts from the bakery. Drew’s mom planned the entire rehearsal dinner, came with me to every wedding dress fitting, and scheduled my hair styling trial. My aunt and my grandpa created our photo booth backdrop, and everyone helped assemble the props while Drew and I were on our flight. Meanwhile, our flower girl and ring bearers just kept being freakin’ adorable.

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Courtesy of my aunt Kathi–if you need a good photographer, visit her page!

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Our wedding day was an absolute blast. The girls and I got ready while drinking champagne (thanks, Heather!) and hate-watching Fifty Shades Darker (they found it on TV while I was in the shower).

Getting pretty. 💕👰🏻🌈🥂🍰 #mawidge #turningturner #marauderwedding

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While I highly doubt our luck would have been compromised if Drew and I had seen each other before the wedding, we opted to avoid one another until our first look photos. We’re still waiting for the photos to come in, but Erin snapped this awesome picture of me hiding from Drew.

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Drew said he thought I’d have a poofy, Cinderella-esque dress. I SURE SHOWED HIM.

The ceremony itself was everything we could have hoped for. My brother walked with my grandma and my mom down the aisle; Drew walked with his mom, while my dad walked me down the aisle. Xan’s father was our officiant, and my friend Christina, one of my favorite people in the whole world, did our ceremony reading.

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So basically, I was crying happy tears within five seconds of the ceremony starting. I was crying and sniffling even harder when we read our vows to one another. And I had a microphone, so I may or may not have mixed feelings about seeing our wedding video.

After we were pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Turner, we each grabbed a drink from the bar (priorities) and got ready for more photos (there are always photos that need to be taken at weddings). Then, it was time for dinner, more drinks, and dancing–the best part, other than actually getting married, of course.

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One of my favorite moments was when Chris asked the DJ to play “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.”

AND THE DJ ACTUALLY PLAYED IT.

If I have any advice for brides-to-be, it’s to play that song, because if you do all the millennials will sing and dance along dramatically. And if you don’t, your wedding will be a FAILURE.

Just kidding. But it was really, really, fun.

Some of the wedding gals. #turningturner

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It was all so fun, in fact, that it ended way too soon.

Weddings are strange. You spend months and months planning this big, beautiful thing, and then it goes by in a big, beautiful blur. Some things did not go as planned–it’s just how weddings are–but that’s okay. We were celebrating love, and love is big and beautiful on its own.

The next day, we headed to Orlando for our honeymoon! Stay tuned for the second part of this post, where I’ll tell you all about our Disney and Universal adventures. Spoiler alert: it was amazing and I want to go back ASAP.

Until next time, my loves!

for such a time as this

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Image from Huffington Post

As an American citizen, the bulk of my education revolved around our country’s history.

We started at the beginning–or at least, what we were told was the beginning: Christopher Columbus discovers America. The Pilgrims come for religious freedom.  Did you know they became friends with the Native Americans on Thanksgiving?!

Soon after came the Revolutionary War. Later on, the Civil War. We were fighting over slavery, but we were also fighting over states’ rights. A century later, racism is still rampant and the Civil Rights movement is underway.  Oh, and don’t forget about Rosa Parks: the brave African American woman who did not give up her seat on the bus. She was tired, after all.

Obviously, Christopher Columbus did not discover America. There were already people here.

But I was thirteen when I learned that Christopher Columbus was not the first white man to step foot in the Americas. In high school, I learned that the Pilgrims and Native Americans did not celebrate the Thanksgiving we now hold so dear. I was an adult before I learned that Rosa Parks had planned on not giving up her seat. She wasn’t just tired. She was an activist.

I was an adult before I realized my education had sanitized the uglier parts of our history.

I have spent so much time re-learning what I already thought I had learned, but I know there is still so much work to do.

I am an American, but I am also a Midwesterner who now lives in the South. I lived mere hours away from Ferguson, Missouri. I now live in the vicinity of Confederate memorials, and hours away from Stone Mountain, Georgia. The NAACP recently issued a travel advisory for Missouri. In the South, there are conversations about taking down Confederate memorials. Both have opened my eyes, and I hope that knowledge and compassion can spark some progress.

But it shouldn’t have taken this long.

It shouldn’t have taken a white supremacist march and violence and death to realize that the way we talk about our history is hurting fellow Americans.

Listen: there is nothing wrong with being white. 

But it is wrong to be complicit. It is wrong to stay silent. It is wrong to stay ignorant. 

My whiteness is not something to be ashamed of, but it is something to deconstruct.

Charlottesville proved that we are re-living history, but we are also creating it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with our own beliefs and prejudices. How did they get there? What can we change?

I have compiled a list of resources about race, anti-Semitism, and how we can respond. I hope that we read these articles while we drink our morning coffee or afternoon tea; I want us to peruse them when it is slow at work or when we need something new to read. I want us to revisit them when tragedy strikes–but more importantly, I want us to read them on the days that seem ordinary and otherwise uneventful. If racism and prejudice can become ingrained in us, then love, mercy, and justice can become ingrained in us, too.

If you have any resources (online or otherwise) that you would like me to include, leave a link in the comments at any time. This will be an on-going list–and they don’t have to be in reference to Charlottesville. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me

Resources

The Salt Collective: How To (and not to) Respond When Someone Calls You a Racist

Gala Darling  #blacklivesmatter and what we can actually DO about it 

Relevant Magazine: It’s Not Enough to Just Not Be a Racist

Glennon Doyle Melton: For Trayvon 

Teen Vogue: Women Have Always Been a Part of White Supremacy

Vox: The battle over Confederate statues, explained

Refinery29: We Need To Talk About The Anti-Semitism At The Charlottesville Protest

The Huffington Post: All The Swastikas And Broken Glass Since Charlottesville

Relevant Magazine: Why All Christians Should Celebrate the Removal of the Confederate Flag

The Salt Collective: How We Can Start Asking Better Questions About A Person’s Race and Identity

Guest Post: Some Thoughts From a Former Charlottesville Resident

 Many of you may remember my friend Ben, politics and journalism extraordinaire!  He was kind enough to offer to write a guest post for my blog this week regarding the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Read his article below–if you have any questions, feel free to contact me. 

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I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia from 1996 until 2003, and attended the city’s Venable Elementary School from first through fourth grade.

I mention Venable Elementary because it is named for Charles Venable, who served on the faculty at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and as one of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s military aides during the Civil War.

It was the controversy over the removal of a statue of Lee from a park in Charlottesville that brought chaos, violence, and hatred to my former home town in the form of a KKK, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist rally and various counter-protests to the town this past weekend that continue to make national headlines.

I say various counter-protests because I think it’s important to draw a distinction between the violent anti-fascist and anarchist elements attacked by President Donald Trump Tuesday as the “alt-left” and the peaceful protestors such as Heather Heyer.

Heyer lost her life when a neo-Nazi slammed his car into her and other protestors. In addition to Heyer’s murder, police officers Lieutenant Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke Bates died responding to the violence when their helicopter crashed en-route.

The violence, carnage and hatred has stunned the nation, and is a sharp reminder that lethal racism, bigotry and prejudice still exist in America.

The stark scenes of neo-Nazis chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” as they marched with torches down the streets and fields I grew up playing on is chilling to say the least. Unfortunately, the KKK-like scene Friday night at the University of Virginia was just the beginning. On Saturday, the protests moved into downtown Charlottesville.

After the dust has settled from a violent and disturbing weekend and a week of introspection, the big question going forward is what should be done about Lee’s statues and indeed, all the confederate statues across the United States?

Statues may been seen by some as just marble, but they have long been seen as more than that. I can remember growing up in Charlottesville reading about the protests against putting a statue of Lincoln up down the road in Richmond, the capitol of the Confederacy.

Lee himself recognized the danger, speaking out after the Civil War against putting up confederate statues by saying it would “keep open the sores of war.”

Yet Confederate statues continue to dot the South as reminders of the men who served in the Confederate army and their leaders, despite serving as painful reminders of a government and military that fought to preserve racially-based slavery. Many were put up long after the war not as memorials but as reminders of white supremacy.

Since the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house in South Carolina in 2015 (an event I attended), cities all across the country have re-examined whether and how the Confederacy should be represented. Should these monuments be seen as historical symbols for remembrance, or as statues honoring and glorifying men who fought for racist ideals?

Not to mention, there are Confederate generals and soldiers, and then there is Robert E. Lee. Lee is revered in Virginia, the state he chose to serve over an offer from Lincoln to serve as commander of the Union army. Lee’s birthday is still a state holiday in Virginia, for which we got off school.

In my personal opinion as the descendant of a Confederate soldier, Lee is the least morally repugnant Confederate general. But he is still morally repugnant, just like all the men who fought for the right for humans to own and abuse other humans. All these statues should come down.

These issues – the role of the Confederacy in our history, the role of race in our politics and our society and the role of our leaders in condemning racism and bigotry – are all intertwined.

Every American must wrestle with these issues, but those in southern towns take a special perspective and interest in them. It’s the reason why Charlottesville found itself in the crosshairs, and it’s part of the reason why the follow-up to this tragedy has continued the pain.

Charlottesville may be on the path to recovery, as students led a beautiful candle-light vigil to reclaim their grounds from neo-Nazis and the city has emerged as a community willing to stand up to bigotry despite a racist past. But the nation is still reeling, thanks in no small part to the president’s abject failure to address this incident appropriately.

Yes, Trump is right that their was violence on both sides of the protest. Yes, Trump is right that there are those on the left who are unfairly lumping in George Washington and Thomas Jefferson with Confederate leaders in wanting to see their statues removed.

However, despite owning a house near Charlottesville and claiming he understands better than the rest of us, Trump is dead wrong on everything else he has said related to this situation. No wonder Klan leaders and neo-Nazis like David Duke and Richard Spencer are cheering his remarks and CEOs and decent-minded Republicans are fleeing his side.

There is not blame on both sides, as Trump has suggested. There were no “very fine people” in the pro-statue rallies in Charlottesville last weekend. The neo-Nazis, KKK and their friends brought the violence and hate to Charlottesville they are solely to blame for the violence. The fact a president cannot condemn these groups is a new low in our political discourse.

Just because the president refuses to learn the lessons of the events in my old home town this past week doesn’t mean the rest of America has to.

Bigotry, racism, and hatred are alive and well in America and with the Internet and the rise of political figures willing to court their support, these evils very well may be on the rise.

The bright side is there are people willing to stand up against these forces. People like Heather Heyer, who gave her life. People like Susan Bro, Heather’s mother, now carrying on her daughter’s legacy by speaking out. And people all over the country who are willing to peacefully protest these evil forces and have these difficult conversations about race and American history.

I encourage Southerners and non-Southerners alike to hold elected leaders accountable on these issues, fight for the removal of these statues, and have difficult conversations on race. But take the time to learn the history, reject racism, and racist revisionism; as Susan Bro said to the president on television this week, “think before you speak.”

If we do these things, we can help to stop events like those in Charlottesville last weekend from happening ever again.

A Time to Mend

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A single man in possession of a good fortune may be in want of a wife, but he may not realize that the wedding industry kind of sucks.

That fortune is going to come in handy, Mr. Bingley.

If you follow me on Twitter or are #blessed enough to know me IRL, you know that I find the wedding tax extremely frustrating. Like the pink tax–which makes everyday items like razors, shampoo, and body wash more expensive just because they are marketed towards women, even though they do the same damn thing–the wedding tax charges more for…well, basically everything, because it’s for a wedding.

It’s a pain, yes, but it’s something I’ve (mostly) come to terms with. Weddings are just expensive. Like avocado toast.

But Drew and I are lucky. Our parents are kind enough to help with the bigger expenses, and our own bank accounts are in decent shape, so it isn’t the actual price tag that bothers me as much as the inherent consumerism of the wedding industry. Diamond engagement rings, for instance, are only popular because the diamond industry told us that REAL MEN propose with diamond rings that cost 2 months’ worth of paychecks.

Then there’s Pinterest. Do I need a shirt that says I’m about to get ‘meowied?’ No. Do I want it? Yes. Yes, I do.

In the end, I bought shirts for myself and my wedding party. But they have unicorns on them, and mine says that I’m a unicorn bride, so obviously I’m going to wear it until the end of time…even though I’m technically only a bride once.

Is that shirt completely amazing? Yes. Do I need it? Not really. No. I don’t.

I want our family and friends to celebrate with us, and I want to celebrate our future together during our honeymoon–so at the end of the day, I don’t mind spending money on these things, because they are important to us. The ‘extras’ that don’t impact our actual marriage are often harder to justify. Even if I end up buying these fun things, I feel a little guilty. There are real problems in the world (to put it mildly), and here I am, planning a wedding. There are countless people who don’t have the luxury of worrying about ties or cake; what right to I have to have an emotional breakdown because of wedding planning?

And yet, there is something beautiful about marriage that seems to make the world a better place.  My guilt began to subside when I listened to a recent episode (Book 3, Chapter 19) of my favorite podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Vanessa explains that in Judaism, mercy is shown through action:

“There’s the famous idea of tikkun olam, which is the idea to heal the world…It’s a story in the Talmud that the world gets broken into infinite pieces, and that it is each of our responsibilities to try to mend those pieces. And there are lots of ways to mend those pieces. In fact, by falling in love with somebody… you help heal the world…And the idea is that even just by marrying someone, you are helping to heal them, because you are bringing them a benevolent listener and partner.”

It reminded me of a chapter in A Year of Biblical Womanhood, in which the author focuses on charity:

 “While the word charity connotes a single act of giving, justice speaks to right living, of aligning oneself with the world in a way that sustains rather than exploits the rest of creation. Justice is not a gift; it’s a lifestyle, a commitment to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam—‘repairing the world.’”

– Rachel Held Evans

If falling in love can help piece the world back together, can a wedding do the same? Perhaps consumerism is not the issue; perhaps it is the way in which we consume. And like I mentioned earlier, we consume a lot during weddings.

Let’s go back to jewelry: aside from the fact that the diamond industry invented the diamond engagement ring, the diamond industry is notorious for human rights violations. Drew is wonderful and found an engagement ring from Brilliant Earth, a company that uses ethically-sourced diamonds (including lab diamonds!) and recycled metals.  They also donate 5% of their profits to communities that have been harmed by the diamond industry.  And my hand is super sparkly! We just purchased our wedding bands from the same place, and I couldn’t be happier. WIN/WIN/WIN/WIN/WIN.

Drew also had the idea to ask our guests to donate to our favorite non-profits instead of buying us a gift from a registry (in case if you haven’t figured it out yet, Drew is a really good person). Pinterest, while leading me to shirts I definitely don’t need, also introduced me to a site that inspired me to ask if we could donate leftover food to a nearby homeless shelter. Even the pre-wedding parties can be a way to spread the love: my maid of honor kept telling me she was going to get a stripper for my bachelorette party, and I found out that she instead donated to BeLoved, a program in Atlanta that provides for women who have been victims of sex trafficking or looking to escape the sex industry.

Weddings are also an amazing opportunity to support small businesses and artists! Catalyst lists some amazing vendors and has plenty of resources for planning ethically-conscious weddings.

Thanks to Rachel Held Evans, I’ve realized I should strive for ethical consumption in all aspects of my life–not just my wedding,that  or holidays, or occasions when we tend to buy the most.

We aren’t perfect, of course; I’m sure that not everything at our wedding will be ethically sourced, and not everything we spend will go back to charity. Not everything I’ll buy after our wedding will be 100% ethical, either. And as much as that sucks, I know it’s a process. I am still learning. We all are–and maybe this awareness is the first step to mending the world, piece by piece.

Art, Activism, & Apathy

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I was once told that I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

It doesn’t take a plethora of scientific studies to prove that artists are sensitive (though many studies have).

At risk of sounding incredibly cliche, I find my own sensitivity to be a blessing and a curse. If you are having a bad day, I’m a good listener; I’m also fairly decent at reading other people’s emotions. I feel deeply and fiercely, and most decisions I make are made with my heart.

Emotions are also kind of a pain in the ass. Sometimes, I am brought to tears just because Drew said something really nice. For instance:

Me: I’m afraid I’m going to trip while walking down the aisle.

Drew: That would be hilarious. 

Me: What the hell!? No, it wouldn’t! 

Drew: I mean, I’d laugh, but then I would just think, “That’s the woman I fell in love with.”

Me [eyes shining with tears]: AWWWWWW. 

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So, yeah. I have emotions seeping out of every pore in my body.

That’s why I write, and why others paint or make music or dance. Art has a funny way of helping us understand and appreciate this beautiful, messy thing called life.

Perhaps this hyper-sensitivity is also why art so easily lends itself to social justice. If sensitive artist types like myself are already FEELING ALL THE FEELS and then catch a segment of the evening news, we’re going to start feeling even more feels. And, like everything else buzzing around our minds, those feelings have to go somewhere.

That’s why I continue to write. There are plenty of stories that are just for me, and there’s something beautiful in that, too–but I will have truly answered my call to create if my words can help make the world a better place.

In the past, I wrote about social justice and politics sporadically; in other words, I wrote about justice when I didn’t know what else to do. Words were the best way–the only way–I knew how to change myself and the world around me. I took my anger, threw it back at the world, and said, “Ha! I made something beautiful. You can’t hurt us anymore.”

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
― Cornel West

After the 2016 election, I vowed to do everything I could to stand for justice and social change.  I would march. I would call my Senators. I would write letters to Donald Trump every day.  I would stay educated on every single bill. Most importantly, I would write. God, I would write. Because that’s what I was put on this earth to do, dammit.

This is a promise that is impossible to keep, even for a girl who feels too much and too hard. You see, the problem with feeling so many things at once is that you are in danger of burning out. Fast.

Not that my exhaustion stopped me. I called my Senators. I prayed every day and started writing more articles about justice. I wrote letters and Tweeted up a storm.

But I had started to feel numb. Everything I did felt useless. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be called an ‘activist,’ because I was just calling politicians and writing on my blog that barely reached a hundred people. I hadn’t started writing any thought-provoking dystopian novels or anything, either. I listened to the news, and instead of heartache I felt hopelessness. I was angry, but I was no longer surprised. It was a familiar reaction, really–how many of us catch a news story about a shooting or a terrorist attack, shake our heads, and change the channel?

That might be the scariest thing of all: that tragedy and injustice strike, and we aren’t even surprised.

We should be. We should be shocked to our very core. This is not how the world was meant to be. 

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A few months ago, my pastor taught a sermon on compassion fatigue. He explained that thanks to the Internet, we are bombarded with information every second of every day.  We can only process a certain amount of information at once, so our empathy fizzles out. We stop caring.

That Sunday, I realized how tired I was. I had stopped caring, and I didn’t feel like myself. Emotions may be a pain in the ass, but I would rather feel too much than nothing at all.

Rest was long overdue. I took a short break from social media, and listened to the news a little less. I was less weary, and I started to FEEL ALL THE FEELS again.

And, once again, this proved to be a blessing and a curse. This past week, I was in tears after reading the news and scrolling through Facebook. I was worried about healthcare and heartbroken for my transgender brothers and sisters; it had already been a stressful week without another blow from the government.  My empathy was back in high gear, but so was my hopelessness.

“I’m just so angry and sad,” I told Drew. “No matter how many calls we make or letters we write, it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

Drew paused, and then in his thoughtful, wonderful, Drew way, he said something I will never forget: “Sometimes, you don’t fight to win the current battle. You fight to win the next one.”

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I do not write this little blog entry as a how-to, or an advice column, or even as a promise for myself–but I do write this as an encouragement to my fellow artists and hyper-sensitives.

We cannot afford apathy. We need your emotions–every single one. We need art to light up the world. We need fierce compassion so we can love the least of these. Stay sensitive. Empathy is indeed a blessing, even on the very worst days.

Pain is a part of life, yes; it’s unavoidable in this broken, brutal world. But we’re a part of this life, too, and that fact alone means that we are not powerless.

Listen to the aches of your heart and keep creating, whether you bake or write or paint or dance. The world may not need you in order to keep spinning, but it desperately wants you–because there are future battles to be won.