Friends, Waffles, and Work: TGIF

It’s finally Friday, and what a week it has been!  The majority of my time has been spent either applying for jobs or working, but I’ve also been trying to focus on blogging (can you tell?) and catching up on sleep. Exciting, I know. Still, those everyday tasks have a way of building up until you can’t wait to get a day off.

However, I am thrilled to share that I have been featured in Effervescent Magazine! Take a look if you have the time; the issue’s theme is juvenescence, and all published submissions focus on youth, as well the challenges that come with it. I was so busy this week that I hadn’t even realized this issue had gone live, but can’t wait to see what it has in store.

In other news, here is what I have been in love with this week:

As always, God’s unfailing love and grace. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. And so, when anxiety or the thought of making a mistake leaves me paralyzed, He tells me that He is bigger than my doubts. I’m finally starting to realize that perfection does not leave room for me to experience real love.

Planning a trip to Missouri! In a few weeks, I will be visiting family and attending my cousin Alyssa’s graduation ceremony! I’ll get to see best friends and spend some much-needed time with the fam, and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

My awesome boyfriend. For all the times he has shared his pizza or bought me dinner; for impromptu Disney movie nights and reminding me that the future isn’t so scary after all. He is also very good at explaining hockey terminology, making me laugh, and making me feel loved.

Other happy thoughts: laughing with Xan about Jesus’s adolescent years; Constable Chubs following us everywhere; job interviews; chocolate flavored tea, and chocolate in general; amazing articles from The Salt Collective and Relevant; appreciating this season’s queens on RuPaul’s Drag Race (I can’t stop watching it, you guys); sunny Georgia days; season 3 of How I Met Your Mother, because that’s when it starts getting HILARIOUS; kind strangers; book recommendations (always); Virginia mountains; the awesomeness of Burt’s Bees face wash; writing non-stop; days where I can sleep in and wear my pajamas; ordering several bottles of wine from Currahee Vineyards; new music; animal rescue stories; reaching 20 posts on this blog! Crazy, right?!

What are some of your favorite things this week? Please share in the comments–I love hearing from each and every one of you. ❤

 

 

 

Why We Love Game of Thrones

A few years ago, a little show called Game of Thrones took over the world.  I couldn’t go anywhere on Facebook or Tumblr without hearing about it. I didn’t even know what the show was about, but I knew there was a lot of nudity, and a lot of fighting. Since violence isn’t really my jam, I wasn’t too intrigued.

Somewhere along the way, I found out that it had been a book series, too.

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Queue the intrigue. Because I’m that person who needs to read the book, AND watch the movie, if time allows (I’m not trying to be a snob when I say that, either. I just really suck at seeing movies, as anyone who knows me at all can confirm).

As I heard more about the show, the book series climbed higher and higher on my to-read list. But what truly caught my interest was when my cousin Heather told me about a certain quote from Tyrion Lannister:

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

I think that’s how my love for the series began. What finally grabbed my attention wasn’t the sex, the epic battles, or even the medieval fantasy setting: it was Tyrion, the dwarf who had always felt like an outcast (he’s still my favorite, by the way).

I purchased the first book as soon as I could, and I was addicted. Every free moment I had was spent reading. I hadn’t loved a series like that in a very long time.

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After reading the books, I started the show. Admittedly, it took me forever to catch up (meaning Drew and I finished watching the fifth season a few weeks ago–I suck at watching things, remember?), but the show is just as addicting. The actors are perfectly cast; the sets are gorgeous–and sometimes, you see more of a character than you do in the novels.

Even though I believe George R.R Martin is a brilliant writer, and that his novels inspired an excellent television show, I found myself reflecting on my love for the series. Last season did not come without criticism, namely for changing various plot points and including scenes with sexual violence. It’s a thrilling story, but it’s not particularly easy to watch. How did I–and millions of others–fall in love with such a brutal series?

Take the Red Wedding, for instance. That scene is absolutely heartbreaking, and for good reason. Even Cersei’s atonement walk is hard to watch, and there aren’t many fans I know who have love for Cersei Lannister. I realize that many fans have a stronger stomach than I do when it comes to blood and gore, but I don’t know anyone who relishes the thought of seeing yet another beloved character killed. In fact, many fans stopped watching last season because of unneeded sexual violence.

Westeros is a fictional universe that I do not care to visit. In some ways, it’s so much more terrifying than reality–but it’s also like looking into a mirror. Certain scenes are based on our own history; other plot points, such as radical religious leaders, are so relevant to today that the story stops feeling like fantasy.

In the middle of it all are some of the most fascinating characters in recent culture. With the exception of Joffrey, I don’t think there is one character that is fully good or fully evil. But our heroes have one thing in common: they are all outcasts.

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Game of Thrones is the ultimate underdog story. And who doesn’t love to root for the underdog?

Daenerys Targaryen goes from exiled princess to Mother of Dragons. Tyrion Lannister is accused of crimes he did not commit. Jon Snow is only known as Ned Stark’s bastard son until he joins the Night’s Watch. The list goes on and on; if they didn’t start out as misfits, their circumstances have made them that way.

“I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things.”

-Tyrion Lannister, A Game of Thrones

The real story is not about violence: it is about triumph. We don’t love the characters who already have power–we love those who are beaten and abused by power, the ones who fight to survive. Game of Thrones is not successful because of its controversial nature, but because it appeals to the tender spots in our own hearts. And until the last book is written and the last episode airs, we will continue to cheer for the characters who never thought they’d win.

 

Friends, Waffles, and Work: Choosing Joy

Last week, I started a new series called “Friends, Waffles, and Work” because I felt overwhelmed–which, honestly, is just something that happens when you are extremely sensitive and easily stressed.

Despite the challenges I am currently facing, I know it is not my circumstances that cause so much stress: it is my own negativity. I set incredibly high standards for myself and my future, and it’s impossible to live up to. With every rejection e-mail or frustrating workday, I sink under the incredible weight of failure.

I hate the waiting game. I expect progress to happen overnight. I run away from opportunities because it’s not what I want. And if God loved me so much, he’d just give me what I want, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong.

This series is part of my personal effort to be at peace with the present. To trust God with everything He has given me. To stop calling myself a failure and remember that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. To choose joy, just like I have chosen love.

It isn’t easy–but the things that are worth it rarely are.

 

Happy little thoughts:

Coffee dates. Re-watching How I Met Your Mother. Writing stories based on “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine (learn more here!). Borrowing books. Bonding with customers over Harry Potter, tattoos, Disney, and Hamilton. Yoga with Adriene.  New friends. Old friends. Applying to volunteer at an animal shelter. Babysitting, and the made-up Monopoly rules that come with it. Beautiful spring weather. Drew telling me that he’ll call me out when I start being negative. Writers who inspire me. Conversations about God’s love and never-ending grace. Harriet Tubman on the $10 bill, and Lin-Manuel Miranda winning the Pulitzer Prize. E-mails from my dad. Pope Francis being awesome. Banning the idea of ‘should’ from my mind. Unexpected wisdom from tea tags: “Love is an infinite victory.” The love and support from all the amazing people in my life.

How has your week been? What are you grateful for? 

House-Elves and Children’s Tales

If we haven’t met–or, more than likely, if this is your first time visiting–there is something you should know: I love to read. I can never quite answer the question, “What do you like to read?”, because I’ll read anything. As writers, that’s a piece of advice we constantly give one another: read everything. It’s also good advice for the insatiably curious; for many of us, it’s hard to find something that isn’t interesting. The French Revolution? Yes. Heart-wrenching love stories? Sure. Dragons? Of course. Why are you even asking that question?

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At this point, my to-read list is miles long, and it’s grown substantially since I started working in a bookstore. Despite this, I find myself wanting to re-read the books from my childhood.

I want to revisit the books that kept me company on the school bus. I want to meet my favorite characters, as if I were reading about them for the first time. I want that magic, that spark that made the world feel smaller and so much bigger at the same time.

“Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time.”

-George R.R Martin, A Storm of Swords

But it doesn’t stop with children’s books: I’ve also had the urge to read more young adult literature. YA has always held a big piece of my bookworm heart, and I’m quite sure that will never change.

But why am I so drawn to children’s books? Why young adult, when I am already past my teenage years?

There are countless reasons, many of which have to do with my interests as a writer or how reading fiction can make us more empathetic. I could write for hours on those reasons alone, but today I want to take a different angle and focus on adults who read–and enjoy–books for younger readers (teen fiction or otherwise).

Twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings and literally anyone who is older than the typical middle-grade to high-school age group are often looked down on for reading children’s books. The author of this article claims that adults should be embarrassed of that fact, and that we’re missing something if we disregard other forms of literature for YA.

Of course we’re missing something if we only read YA, just like we are missing something if we are only listening to one genre of music or watching one television show. If we are missing something when we read books for children, then the reverse must be true: we are missing something if we don’t.

I have read many YA novels and rolled my eyes at allegedly romantic lines or the cliche protaganist. But I’ve done the same for ‘adult literature,’ too. Bad writing is just that: bad writing, and it can exist in all genres for all age groups. Ever heard of a book called Fifty Shades of Grey?

I was eight years old when I read the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the very first time. And I’ve re-read it–and the rest of the series–about a dozen times since. The story doesn’t change. However, my perspective changes, and that makes every reading experience different. The Hogwarts I knew growing up is not the same Hogwarts I know now. I grew up. I look at my world, and Harry’s, from another lens.

The very fact that I have grown up is exactly why reading children’s books is still beneficial. I haven’t read The Chronicles of Narnia since I was in elementary school. At that age, I had no idea that Aslan was an allegory for Jesus. I just thought he was a really cool lion. With that knowledge, what could I learn from Narnia that I couldn’t before? Maybe nothing. Maybe something incredible.

The same is true for countless other novels. As an adult, teen fiction like The Princess Diaries and Eleanor and Park challenged my ideas about romance; classics like Peter Pan felt more meaningful as an adult because I understood the bittersweetness of Neverland.

There is wisdom hidden in these so-called simple tales, and to ignore them completely, or else assume that the older readers of YA are immature or unintelligent is a very narrow point of view.

“That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love, loyalty, and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Like I mentioned earlier, this is just one of many arguments for children’s/YA lit. But perhaps the simplest reason–and the reason that no one should ever need to defend–is that people love these books. They may be overly satisfying stories, nostalgic indulgences that we can devour like candy, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In my opinion, all good stories should feel like eating candy. Who wants to read a book that is easy to put down?

My Nana once told me that she learns something from every book she reads. So read whatever allows you to think and grow. Read what you love. For some of us, that includes fairy tales.

 

Friends, Waffles, and Work: First Edition

Leslie Knope, one of my favorite television characters of all time, says that the important things in life are friends, waffles, and work. “Friends, Waffles, and Work” is my newest series of blog entries, inspired by Gala Darling’s  Things I Love Thursday and other bloggers who take the time to write about things they love and what they are thankful for. 

This week has left me feeling a little rough around the edges. Maybe it’s just because my first overnight shift left me exhausted and grouchy, or job hunting has gotten the best of me.

Whatever the case, it’s not a very good feeling, and it has the ability to trigger the all-too familiar “I’m twenty-something and having a crisis” cry fest.

Fortunately, my boyfriend listened to my worries (which are practically never-ending), and I felt reassured that my world wasn’t ending. Sometimes it takes a bit of a breakdown to realize you’re doing okay after all.

Still, I want to make more of an effort to practice gratitude; it’s too easy to get bogged down by negativity and make it your reality. My goal is to write about all the amazingly awesome things in my life once a week. Feel free to keep me accountable, because I’m easily distracted.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”
David Steindl-Rast

Here is what has been on my heart after this week:

I am grateful to have a home. A place that my boyfriend and I can just be. I love laughing at the mischief Constable Chubs gets into. I love lighting candles and cooking simple meals and practicing yoga in the living room. I love reading out loud to one another. I love the trees in our backyard and the tiny gazebo in the middle of our street.

I spend a lot of time complaining about going to work (because who wants to go to work when you could be in your pajamas at home, right?), but my job is a huge blessing. So many people do not have same opportunities, and a source of income should not be taken for granted.  I love finding new books to add to my reading list.  I love the discounts. I love how I am learning more about myself and about people. I love how kids get excited when they find the perfect book.

I have the absolute best people in my life; my family and friends are wonderful. I cannot express how happy I am to know and love each and every one of them. God knew what he was doing when he brought us together.

Oh, and thank God for the technology that lets me contact them whenever I want. As lovely as hand-written notes are, I’d be lost if I had to wait for letters week after week.

Other happy little thoughts:

The Hamilton soundtrack. The Miitomo app. Sleeping in. Talking to my mom after a long day. Anticipating the new season of Game of Thrones. Making book recommendations to customers. Past seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race FOR FREE on Amazon Video. The miracle of the no-shampoo method. Arlo from Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. Group texts that never end. Baseball games. Travel plans. Library books. Modern medicine, because it makes allergies manageable. Discovering Airbnb. Sunny days and knowing that summer is almost here. Spending hours talking to my cousin on Facebook chat.

Until next time, my loves!

What are you in love with this week? How do you practice gratitude in your life? 

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I spent Easter morning bawling.

Not because I was sad, or because anything particularly bad happened. I wasn’t even that tired.  I was just sitting in church, listening to the all-too familiar story that gets told every Easter Sunday.

But I couldn’t stop crying.

I don’t remember when I was told about Jesus, but I know I was, because I believed that He loved me. I wasn’t aware of any other alternative–it was just a fact of life, and I accepted it the same way I accepted that my parents loved me and that we’d go to my grandparents’ house for Christmas.

Even during my freshman year of college, when I struggled deeply with the very idea of religion, I never stopped believing in God. I believed that there was Someone out there; I just wasn’t sure what that Someone was like. Was he really as loving as I had always thought? Or was he the angry, vengeful force of nature I had read about on picket signs?

A few Bible studies and sermons later, I found myself getting to know the Jesus from my childhood. The Jesus who loved. The Jesus who still does.

That fact was once again drilled into my brain: you are loved. 

Still, knowing something is different than truly believing it. I know I am loved, but some days, I wonder why. I’m not that special. I definitely spend more time turning away from God than I do turning to Him. I am too messy, too broken, and too stubborn for such perfect God to love me.

So why does He bother?

Love has to be more than a feeling. It is a choice; it is something you must act upon, or else it is not true love. I’ve had fights with my boyfriend, my friends, and my parents–none of which made me feel like I loved them very much. That sounds harsh, but it’s pretty difficult to feel love when you are angry or sad. I’ve always liked how Beverly Clearly writes about this in Beezus and Ramona, when Beezus (for those of you who haven’t read it, Beezus’s real name is Beatrice; Ramona just couldn’t pronounce her sister’s name correctly) is pretty pissed off at Ramona for ruining her birthday:

“Sometimes I just don’t love Ramona!” she blurted out, to get it over with. There! She had said it right out loud. And on her birthday, too. Now everyone would know what a terrible girl she was.

“My goodness, is that all that bothers you?” Mother sounded surprised.

Beezus nodded miserably.

“Why, there’s no reason why you should love Ramona all the time,” mother went on. “After all, there are probably lots of times when she doesn’t love you.”

A relationship with God is not unlike any other relationship here on earth. When I am hurt or confused, there are times I feel like I don’t love God. I used to feel guilty about that–I mean, it’s GOD– but I have come to realize that it is something we all struggle with. Even the greatest heroes of the Bible got kind of mad at God.

I think that’s why it can be so hard to believe that God’s love is unwavering. We expect it to come and go, just like our own human emotions. We expect Him to say, “Well, you messed up today, and I’m pretty pissed–so let me put away my thunderbolts, and we’ll talk tomorrow when I’ve cooled down a little bit.”

(God doesn’t have thunderbolts. That’s a joke. It may or may not be funny and it might be completely inappropriate. Sorry.) 

We talk about God’s love year-round, but it never feels as relevant as it does on Christmas or Easter. Walking into church that day, I expected to hear the story of the cross and the empty tomb. I did, but I also heard something that I felt like I hadn’t heard in a very long time:

You are worthy of love. 

That sounds ridiculous, right? I certainly don’t feel unloved. Drew and I say that we love each other. My best friends say ‘I love you’ to one another like, ten times a day. My family members do the same.

But as soon as I heard the word ‘worthy,’ the tears wouldn’t stop.

You are worthy of love.

 

Somewhere down the line, I had convinced myself that I was unlovable. Maybe, I thought, God only says he loves me because he has to. And so, I always demanded to know why he loved me.

But the word ‘worthy’ was the answer to my ‘why.’

When we feel most undeserving of love is when we need it the most. We are not loved despite our deepest hurts; we are loved because of them. We are loved because we are worthy of love–on our very best days, and on our very worst.

You are worthy of love.  

 

And that, my friends, will never change.

Wanderlust: Toccoa Falls, Georgia

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If I had unlimited free time and an infinite supply of cash, I would travel everywhere. Most people I know would, too. Maybe it’s because the Internet has let us learn more about how amazing this world can be, or maybe it’s just because we all crave a little bit of adventure.

Unfortunately, I have not yet succeeded in that unlimited free time/money thing, but I have realized that Georgia is full of places to go and things to see (and so is Missouri, and probably every other place on earth). Drew and I have been wanting to make a day trip for a while, so we dedicated our Saturday to visiting Toccoa Falls.

After making a kick-ass playlist (which consisted of mainly Disney and classic rock songs, and it was totally awesome) we made the two-hour drive to Toccoa.

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We discovered that our GPS didn’t work very well in northern Georgia–just finding a place to eat was an adventure in itself. Luckily, Toccoa Falls is located in the campus of Toccoa Falls College, so there were plenty of signs to lead the way.

To get to the waterfall, you have to visit the welcome center and pay a $2 fee. Then, you can walk the entire .2 miles it takes to get to the waterfall.

(Or, if you are like me, you can wander around the entire area before your boyfriend informs you that he is pretty sure you HAVE to go through the welcome center.) 

To be honest, I was pretty grumpy about the $2 (nature should be FREE) but I think it was worth it.

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After the falls, we decided to visit a nearby winery. Because who doesn’t want to come home without trying locally made wines? Not me, that’s for sure.

Drew had never visited a winery before, but he must have been impressed, because we have now decided to visit another one ASAP. We normally just buy boxed wine from the grocery store (fun fact: boxed wine is better for our wallets and the environment, and wine experts aren’t even real.), so having someone pour wine for us and swirl it around in the glass made us feel extra classy.

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Wineries are gorgeous, too. 

Right now, I have a few other trips in the works, but I am definitely planning on exploring more of Georgia on my weekends off. Adventure is out there! Just sign me up.

What adventures have you gone on lately? Or, what places do you most want to visit?