Reclaiming Valentine’s Day

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For someone who proudly claims to love love, I am incredibly cynical about Valentine’s Day.

Once upon a time, it was a holiday of innocent, childish glee. Every year, I trekked the aisles of Target, searching for the perfect Valentine’s Day cards. Spongebob or Disney princesses? Puppies or zoo animals? Chocolates or lollipops?

Then, I labored over my “mailbox,” decorating an old shoe box in pink and red and nauseatingly delightful hearts. On Valentine’s Day, school had a special kind of thrill: we were having a party. We wandered around the classroom, dropping Valentines into the festive mailboxes and snacking on our chocolate. I would practically skip home from the bus stop, ready to guzzle down more chocolate and watch Valentine specials on TV. Back then, Valentine’s Day was as special as Halloween is to me now–and those who know me well are fully aware that Halloween is pretty damn special.

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These happy Valentine’s Day traditions died in middle school and high school. My excitement also fizzled out, because I had no boyfriend or romantic life to speak of. As I endured the day at school, my heart hurt in the way that only a teenage girl’s heart can: I was aching to be seen. Preferably by a cute boy waiting at my locker to hand me flowers and a teddy bear. I mean, really. Was that too much to ask? Everyone else had a cute boy and flowers and teddy bears.

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Of course, not everyone in high school had a boyfriend. But this is how I felt as angsty teenager who had yet to experience her first date, or first kiss, or first anything.

A few years down the road, I was dating someone during Valentine’s Day…and to my surprise, I still hated it. I hated how we felt like we had to do something special, just because it was February 14th. I hated the Kay’s Jewelry commercials (more than usual, anyway). I hated how a day about celebrating love seemed to be limited to romantic love. Most of all, I hated how the holiday made so many single people feel miserable.

(To be clear, I know that many people don’t care about Valentine’s Day at all. I also know that any holiday–even Halloween–has the potential to make people miserable. But the spirit of teenage angst doesn’t die so easily when you’re a hyper-sensitive/empath/people-pleaser.)

Fortunately, it’s 2018, and the way we celebrate is changing. Here are some of my favorite ways to reclaim Valentine’s Day:

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Practice self-love. 

We tend to think that once we learn how to love ourselves, we’re set for life; in reality, it’s an ongoing journey. So why not use Valentine’s Day to acknowledge how wonderful you are? Write yourself a love letter. Take a bubble bath. Do yoga and marvel at all the amazing things your body can do. Take hundreds of selfies. Buy yourself a gift. Do that thing you have always wanted to do. However you celebrate, remember the wise words of RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”

Celebrate friendship with Galentine’s Day! 

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Out of all the wonderful things the show Parks and Recreation has given us, I think Galentine’s Day is my absolute favorite. In typical Leslie Knope fashion, she invented her own holiday: Galentine’s Day, which is all about celebrating and having fun with your lady friends. The options are limitless–as long as you are having a girls’ day/night out, you’re doing it right. Even Hallmark celebrates Galentine’s Day!

Create your own traditions. 

If you still want to celebrate, do it on your own terms. On our first Valentine’s Day, Drew and I built the dopest blanket fort in the history of blanket forts. Last year, we opted to skip the Valentine’s Day date and watched Last Week Tonight with our BFF/roommate Kate instead. Drew and I still aren’t sure how we want to celebrate this year, but we know we like keeping it low-key. Don’t let the pretty pink hearts and jewelry commercials tell you what do.

Join the revolution.

Justice is what love looks like in public, so stand with your sisters and fight against violence towards women (whether they are cis, trans, or gender non-conforming). Organize or participate in a local V-Day. Adopt love as an ethic and join the Revolutionary Love Project, where your voice can be a force for social good. Love is more than romance, after all.

We believe it’s time to reclaim love as a public ethic. Love has been captured by greeting cards and pop songs as personal and romantic — too fickle and sentimental to be a revolutionary force. But the greatest social reformers in history grounded entire movements in the ethic of love.

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I also asked my fellow cynics on Facebook and Twitter how they chose to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and I think they had some pretty solid suggestions:

“Candy. That is all.” -Samantha

“I just ignore it. Till the day after when chocolate is on sale.” -Kathi

“Self care and buying myself flowers and chocolate covered strawberries.” -Alyssa

“When I was single, I would ignore it. This is my first ever Valentines Day in a relationship, and it’s not a huge deal to me but I’m still excited to celebrate. We will keep it low key…exchanging small gifts and for dinner, order pizza & eat it in the candlelight. Friday night, we will go out to dinner (it’s what works best with our schedule) and go see Black Panther.” –Mary Ann

“By Valentine’s Day, do you mean pitchers and catchers report day?!?” -Lindsey

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However you choose to celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! ❤ May we spread love wherever we go, no matter the time of year.

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Read and Resist: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know! 

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Between how outraged I always am with the patriarchy and how our nation is in the midst of important conversations regarding sexual assault, Moxie could not have found me at a better time.

I’ll admit it: I judged the book by its cover. How could I not? The library had it proudly displayed with other new young adult novels, and in case you don’t know, I am all about  badass ladies. And hot pink.

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Vivian, the book’s protaganist, was especially relatable to me because she is seen as someone who abides by the rules. I always feel like marching into a temple and flipping over some tables, but at the end of the day, I reallyreally hate getting into trouble. Similarly, when Vivian sparks the feminist revolution at her high school, no one suspects it was her–and she constantly wonders what her mother, grandparents, and friends will think when they find out.

The revolution begins after a boy in Vivian’s class quips that a girl should make him a sandwich. Considering that every girl I know has heard this “joke” a bazillion times (and guess what, everyone? It’s never funny), I immediately believed in Vivian’s small-town Texas high school. After a few similar incidents, Vivian takes inspiration from the Riot Grrl movement of the ’90s and anonymously distributes a zine to her classmates. She calls it Moxie, and invites fellow Moxie Girls to fight back.

One of the most wonderful things about Moxie is how it addresses intersectional feminism and internalized misogyny. In one of my favorite scenes, Vivian and her friends are discussing a Hot-Or-Not-type system created by the boys in their school. The winners, Vivian realizes, are always the same type of girl: skinny and blonde. When her African-American friend points out that they’re always white, too, Vivian admits that she has never noticed. “Well, no offense,” her friend replies, “But you wouldn’t have, because you’re white.”

 

Vivian’s mother also admits to not including black and brown women during her days as a Riot Grrl. The scenes are honest and poignant, and Vivian is able to acknowledge her privilege in a way many of us are not.

In terms of internalized misogyny, Moxie recognizes that some girls are hesitant to identify as a feminist. In Vivian’s case, her best friend thinks the word ‘feminist’ is too strong and the feminist movement is too radical. Her boyfriend, too, has trouble understanding some of Vivian’s views. It’s an especially heart-wrenching look at how we love those who do not share our own convictions. As Vivian’s mom so wisely puts it, we all grow up hearing the same bullshit.

And Vivian has her fair share of bullshit to deal with. Later on in the novel, she becomes friends with a cheerleader–a cheerleader who she used to judge and do her best to ignore. I did my fair share of cheerleader-bashing throughout middle school and high school, and this aspect of the novel made me want to hug every girl I once needlessly despised.

Reading about the Moxie Girls is a beautiful experience. Instead of tearing each other down, they lift each other up. It’s the feminist community I dream about. They start to break barriers built by race, sexual orientation, and high school hierarchies. When shit gets real and the girls start to fear suspension and expulsion, they fiercely protect one another. In every page, Moxie reminds you of the power that every girl has inside her.

“It occurs to me that this is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.”

Fortunately, Moxie Girls exist outside of the realm of fiction. Moxie Girls Fight Back! is the book’s official Tumblr, and the blog includes feminist resources and even a mix tape!

Needless to say, Moxie gets all the stars. Five out of five, I guess, if you’re making me follow these arbitrary book review rules. I still don’t like getting into trouble. But Moxie there are more important things–namely, taking part in the revolution.

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How do my fellow Moxie Girls fight back? What feminist books are you loving right now? Let me know in the comments or contact me through Goodreads or Twitter

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. ❤

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.