A Dog’s Life

I’m dog sitting for my friend Laurie, and seriously, y’all, this is the cutest dog on earth. Her head is all tiny, and she’s got a floofy fountain tail. And she’s super sweet. The only annoying thing is that she doesn’t do anything alone. I can’t just let her out into the yard to do her business. I have to actually stand out there with her. And everywhere I go in the house, she follows. Still, she’s completely precious, and my roommates and I love her.

Anyhoe, I was thinking this morning about how boring a dog’s life would be to a human with a human brain. I mean, to a dog with a dog brain, a pet dog’s life is great. You play, you sleep, you eat, you poop, you chew on stuff, you curl up beside your human. It’s paradise. But to a human, spending all day just eating, sleeping, pooping, chewing on plastic ducks and chasing said ducks around the room would be ridiculous and really boring after less than a week.

The only thing I wish I could take from them is the ease with which they get affection. They just stand there and look at you all cute until you touch them. Some, of course, are more aggressive. They jump and sniff and head butt, and some people refuse to pet a dog no matter what it does. But from my observations, it seems that most dogs that sit and stare get at least a head pat from most humans. And I’m wondering if this could work between people.

Say I go to a bar, and I see a cute guy. What if I just walk up to him and look at him sweetly and expectantly? Would he eventually break down and hug me? Or hold my hand? Or ask me to sit on his lap? Or kiss me? I think it’s worth a shot. And if it works, we can add this to my list of “moves” along with the sexies (up, down, and walk), stingray/stungun, and the bend and snap.

What do y’all think? Anyone up for some experimentation? Purely for research purposes, of course.

Twitter Experiment

I’m writing an article for YourDictionary entitled “Who Is Jimmy Fallon’s Wife?” I love writing these who’s-married-to-whom articles because there’s always a love story involved, and I just think that’s precious. Unfortunately, not much of J.Fal’s love story is online. And yes, I just nicknamed him J.Fal. What of it?

So I just tweeted, “I need to say 200 more words about @jimmyfallon and his wife. Wish I knew how they met/how he proposed/where they got married. Jimmy?” and I’m going to see if he responds. I doubt he will, but how awesome would that be? If you’re on twitter, do encourage him to email me with this information.

I know who his wife is, and I can make an educated guess as to how they met, but I can’t be sure, and I don’t want to lie on the dictionary website. That would be worse than making poop jokes (which I do in those articles every chance I get). If you get a hold of him, ask him to email me (onwardhoe at gmail dot com) with the answers to the following questions:

  • How/when did you and Nancy meet?
  • Was it love at first sight?
  • How long were you together before you got engaged?
  • How did you (or she?) propose?
  • Where did you get married?
  • Who was in your wedding party?
  • Would you like to be a part of the not-actually-being-written musical “Just Now” when it is completed? I think we could toss you in a man salad. Wait. Does that mean something I don’t want it to mean? Because I mean literally, there will be a big bowl and giant tongs, and men will fly around on wires as though they are bits of lettuce and radicchio.

Thanks, blogosphere. Thanks, twitterverse. Thanks, man salad (with vinaigrette).

Open Question

This is one of those classic questions, almost on par with “If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?” or “If money were no object, what would you do with your life?” It’s one of those questions everyone is asked at some point, but I think some people think about it more than others. Here it is:

If you could do over one thing that you have done or said in the past, what would it be and why?

My initial, somewhat sarcastic response to this is, “What? Just ONE thing?” But I think that I think that’s what I’m supposed to say. Really and truly, I aim to live with no regrets, and part of that means living from here on out so that I won’t have any regrets, but the other part is not regretting anything I’ve done in the past.

Everything I’ve said and done and everything that’s been said and done to me have served in part to shape me into who I am now. And let’s be honest, I like who I am. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t put it up on the internet every day. So even though there are painful parts of my past, and even though I’ve done stupid things, without them all, I wouldn’t have learned valuable lessons that I can carry with me from this point forward.

But I’ll be honest. There have been a few boys I wish I’d kissed, a lot of money I wish I’d saved, and several unfortunate haircuts. So here are a few tips on how to live a life without regrets:

  • When considering a hair style, think about how it’ll look on your head for real, and not just how you’d like to imagine it looking in your imagination where you have that actor/actress/hair model’s hair and not your own.
  • When considering a hair style, think about what you’ll think when you look at pictures of it in 15 years. Will it just be a sign of the times, or will you think, “WHO ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN?????”
  • If you’re going to spend more than $200, do your research, and get someone else to help you.
  • Be honest.
  • Be straightforward.
  • Don’t kiss all the boys (or girls) you feel like kissing. Just because you feel like doing something, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea.
  • Eat your veggies.
  • Take risks.
  • Have regular adventures.
  • Have spontaneous adventures.
  • Ask questions.
  • Do what you love, no matter the cost.
  • Be about something bigger than just your life.
  • Hold a baby every chance you get.
  • Hug the people you love. Full frontal hugs.
  • Sing in the car.
  • Write down good memories so you don’t forget them.
  • Do unexpected things.
  • Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.
  • Savor every bite.
  • View every experience as an educational one.

And here’s the open question:

What are your tips for living without regret?

(Not Really a) Question of the Day

I just got an email from formspring informing me that someone had asked me a question. First of all, keep ’em coming. I have one story to tell you about a hippie named Moon who talks to his paintbrush, but after that, I’m going to be out of things to talk about. Ok fine, I’ll probably come up with more, but seriously, use that box over there to ask me whatever you want. Or put questions in the comments. Or email me. Whatever. I love it.

So today’s question isn’t really a question at all. It just said:

please stop being so great.

Well, anonymous requester, I’m sorry, but this is just how I am. I know the awesome might be too much for you, or you might be jealous, or you might think you’re not worthy to ask me out to dinner, but I can’t change it. I will say one thing, though.

My greatness does not make you any less great.

So don’t be overwhelmed; just hop on the awesome train, and let’s go for a ride. And don’t be jealous; there’s plenty of fabulous in you too, I’m sure. And if you want to ask me out to dinner, PLEASE DO! You may not know it, but I have a pretty firm rule on saying yes to a first date with just about anybody. AND I’m kind of poor this month, so you could stand a chance at several dates until I get paid again. Not that I’d just be dating you for the food. Like I said, I’m sure you’re great.

And on the off chance you just meant that request as a compliment, why thank you. I like you, too. Now let’s go take over the world.

Interview With Jason Boyett (aka my best bff forever)

As you may recall, I posted a review last week of Jason Boyett’s new book, O Me of Little Faith. Well, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jason and ask him a few questions. And by “sit down with,” I mean, I sat down and emailed him, and I think he probably sat down to email me back. That counts, right? (Best BFFs FOREVER!!) Here’s what we said to each other. (My questions are all big and important, and his answers are written in a smaller font and confined in smaller boxes.)

You spent a lot of time with O Me of Little Faith. If you and the book were high school seniors, what would you write in its yearbook?

Dear O Me of Little Faith: I told you some things I’ve never told anyone else, ever. You helped me deal with some issues and clarify my thinking on a lot of stuff, so I appreciate that. But you should really put a shirt on.

Really? No “Stay cool,” “RHASL” or “Roses are red, coffee is black, and I’m the first one to sign in your crack”?? Ok then, next question…

Doubt is something that you’ve struggled with for a long, long time. What made you want to write the book now?

Because I’m tired of burying that internal struggle and disguising it behind the mask of a Christian who has it all figured out. I don’t, and I don’t see any use in pretending otherwise. In the process of being honest about these doubts, I’ve discovered that lots of other believers have them, too. So I wanted to write the book as a way to share how I’m learning to deal with it — in hopes that others can walk alongside me in this journey. I hope it’s an encouraging book that reaches out across the loneliness that always seems to be attached to doubt. I hope it provides a safe place for us to start talking about this kind of thing, rather than hiding it.

Right on. I’m a big fan of honesty.

There are lots and lots of (awesome) footnotes in the book. Why didn’t you just include those thoughts in the text? Were you one of those kids in college who gave all your serious psychology papers a title and then a second, snarky, alternate title? I was.

I have never written a serious psychology paper, so no luck there. But I have always loved footnotes. Sometimes, as I’m writing, I think of a joke or an aside that’s only marginally related to whatever I’m writing about. And I really want to use it, but it just doesn’t seem to fit in the text. It might disrupt my precious narrative flow or get in the way of whatever point I’m making. Or it just might not be necessary at all. So what do I do with this frivolous stuff? Either I edit the joke away…or I turn it into a footnote. Footnotes are the clear choice, right? Right.

Oh I concur.

I read the book almost entirely while at my job as a Census 2010 employee. Where did you write it? And what’s the most boring job you’ve ever had?

I wrote it at my desk in my office in my home in Amarillo, Texas. Late at night, mostly. Honestly, I haven’t had too many boring jobs or jobs that allowed me much reading time. My first real job involved delivering prescription medications. It required a lot of driving, which was kind of boring. But reading while driving doesn’t exactly cause the time to speed by. (It does, however, shorten your lifespan.)

Unless you get yourself one of them high falutin’ books on tape. You know, one read by somebody real sexy…like Conway Twitty.

Are you concerned at all that the book will cause doubt where it did not exist before?

Possibly. But, you know, we make it pretty clear on the back cover that it’s a book about doubt. If you are surprised to encounter doubt and hard questions when reading it, then you weren’t paying attention. You can’t say you weren’t warned. But here’s the thing: as believers in Christ, we are supposed to be following and pursuing the truth. Or, the Truth. Capital T. If it’s the truth, shouldn’t it be able to stand up to honest questioning? What do we have to fear? I think the questions I ask in the book are honest ones, born of my desire to understand. So I can ask my questions and express my doubts in pursuit of the truth, or I can hide them in the name of spiritual safety or comfort or peace of mind. Which action is the more truthful one?

Good one. Let’s open that up for discussion, shall we? Hey readers, please discuss.

Chapter 8: “The Paralysis of Weddings and Births” starts out, “I was fearless until I became a father.” But just two chapters earlier, you told us that until 8th grade, you were “soil-your-britches-scared” of roller coasters. Why you gotta be such a liar?

Ahh! Contradictions! My entire thesis has now been ruined! You’ve caught me. I wasn’t actually fearless until I became a father. I was using hyperbole in order to start that chapter off with a bang. Also, you’re mean.

I’m kidding. That’s really picky. But that’s the kind of scrutiny with which (I assume) the majority of intelligent God-doubters read the Bible. The “the-Bible-contradicts-itself-too-much-for-me-to-believe-it” argument keeps them from getting over or pushing through their doubt. What do you have to say to them?

Well, as long as we’re being honest, let me admit that I am one of those kinds of doubters. Reading the Bible is frustrating for me. People tell me the best way to combat my doubt is to “get in the Word.” But I have gotten in the Word. I’ve even written a book about the Bible (Pocket Guide to the Bible, available at fine bookstores near you). But when I read the Bible, I tend to come away with more questions than answers. You’re saying it’s not fair for you to be overly picky about the contradictions and discrepancies that certainly do exist in my book. I agree that there are probably mistakes. That’s because I’m a human being and I mess up. A lot.

But there’s a difference — I’m not claiming my book to be divine. Many people DO claim the Bible to be divine, without mistakes and without error. That’s what I was taught as a child, that the Bible was the “very Word of God.” So when I read the Bible and see these apparent errors or contradictions that require exegetical gymnastics in order to explain away — well, it causes me to doubt. It generates questions and a lot of frustration, because God has given me a brain. Should I just turn it off and ignore the stuff that makes me uncomfortable? I don’t think so, because that’s not intellectually honest. My entire faith tradition is built on what the Bible teaches. If I am going to devote my life to what it teaches, then it needs to be able to bear some close scrutiny. Again — if the Bible is true, it should be able to withstand my honest questions.

So to answer your original question, what would I say to the folks who struggle with faith due to doubts about the Bible? I would say this: I get it. I totally understand. If I have trouble understanding and even trusting the Bible, then of course I’m going to be dealing with some doubt.

What I like so much about that chapter, though, is that it encourages action in spite of doubt. No. That’s not true. It doesn’t encourage – it takes away your best excuse for inaction. It kicks you in the face and says, “Stop being so freaking lame and selfish.” That is not a direct quote or even an insinuation, really. It’s just what I took from it. By the way, Chapter 8: “The Paralysis of Weddings and Births” seriously changed my life. This isn’t a question, just an opportunity to say thank you.

You’re welcome. It’s a fairly philosophical chapter, with all that Kirkegaard stuff, but I understand where you’re coming from. Sometimes you just have to make the leap into the fog of uncertainty, right?

Exactly. Ok. This might be a long shot, and it’s totally not related to the book, but I have to ask: Do you know Don Miller, and if so, could you set me up with him?

Don and I exchanged emails right after Blue Like Jazz was released, way before he became the super-famous DONALD MILLER. So he probably knows my name, and we have some mutual friends, and as writers we’d probably have a lot to talk about. But we’re not buddies or anything. So for me to attempt to set you up with him would be all kinds of awkward. For him. For me. For you.

Which is to say, of course! If we’ve learned anything from watching “The Office,” interpersonal awkwardness is hilarious. So let me get in touch with him right this minute.

Ok I know that’s a joke, and that you’re not going to get in touch with him about setting us up, but I have to admit, I might have just had a small aneurysm from the excitement. We should move on before I go into cardiac arrest as there is no one here to find me and take me to the hospital.

This is only quasi-related to the book, but do your kids have pet turtles? Do you ever stack them up on each other to teach them about faith? Have you chosen someone to take care of them after the rapture?

I have had several pet turtles in my life. Actually, they were tortoises — the kind we discovered crossing the street and felt sorry for so we took them home and put them in the backyard. And then they disappeared from October to May. And then we saw them again, maybe, twice more before they disappeared forever. Turtles are mysterious creatures.

I have never stacked a turtle, because I am haunted by what happened to Yertle. I couldn’t live with those consequences.

I haven’t taken steps to care for my pets after the rapture, but if I were to do so I would definitely go with my friend Bart, the guy behind Eternal Earthbound Pets, which is an actual business created to take care of Scruffy after you’ve gone to meet Jesus. Bart’s an atheist, so he pretty much figures he’ll be left behind. I interviewed him at my blog, by the way. Here and here.

Awesome. And finally, my roommate and I discussed the choreography of an interpretive dance during a roadtrip we took over the weekend. Do you have a song preference?

No preference, as long as it’s either Michael W. Smith or Kool Moe Dee. If you can find a way to do a mashup of those two, then I’ll be happy.

I’m on it. If your book tour brings you to western NC, let me know. I’ll make you a PB&J and have my dance troupe ready to perform our MWS/KMD/OMOLF liturgical dance.

Doubt: Just a Dirty Word for Honesty

Is it ironic that I was skeptical about a book about doubt? That’s fine. I fully admit that I was. I was excited to read it, don’t get me wrong. I mean, this is what happened when my copy of Jason Boyett‘s new book, O Me of Little Faith, came in the mail:

But as excited as I was to read it, I have to say that I wasn’t even through the Introduction before I got a little uneasy about the whole thing. Ok, so raise your hand if you’ve ever taken a test to discover your spiritual gifts. I have taken several, and they’ve always had different outcomes. My theory is that you either are given or develop different gifts based on the roles you have at the time, so that makes sense. But one of the gifts I’ve always had is faith.

I would never have classified myself as a doubter. I still wouldn’t. So when the third page of a book about doubt said, “if you are rock-steady in your faith…then by all means, put this [book] down. Put it back on the shelf. Walk away slowly and enjoy your blessings,” I considered taking it up on the offer. But I’d promised to read it, and the part I left out in the ellipsis there said, “…and [if you] have no interest in reading a book about doubt…,” and I was interested. Wary, but definitely interested. So I kept going.

One of my college English professors told me at the end of the course that he wished I was as open-minded as I was intelligent and analytical. I said I could say the same for him, he threatened my grade, I laughed at him, he gave me an A. Looking back, several things occur to me:

  1. I think he was flirting with me. Creepy.
  2. I was definitely more closed-minded and legalistic in college.
  3. But I wasn’t judgmental of other people. I just kept myself on a short leash.
  4. I don’t look back on that closed-mindedness as entirely a bad thing.

My mind has always been closed in a healthy way from SO many harmful things. To discuss all of that would be irrelevant, but all’s I’m sayin’ is that I think there’s a difference between being closed-minded and having a mind that’s guarded or shielded. To me, the former implies ignorance and prejudice while the latter implies informed decision and strength. If you disagree, then forget the words “closed-minded” and “guarded,” and just consider the difference in implications.

(I know I’m rambling a little. Stay with me.)

What I’m getting at is the difference between me and Jason Boyett. You might not know it based on any number of ridiculous conversations or activities I’ve been involved in, but I’m smart. Jason’s the same way (no offense, buddy). He’s funny and goofy, and there’s a kid on the front of his book with band-aids on his nipples, but this is a guy who’s been on the History Channel as one of those experts they bring in to sit in leather arm-chairs and talk about the Apocalypse. He knows stuff.

And curious minds like that are not often satisfied with Sunday School felt-board answers to big theological questions like, “Why did Satan and hell not appear on the scene until the New Testament if God was the same God and reality was the same reality all along?” and, “Is Christianity just one, crazy, made-up thing that developed out of centuries of cultural mixing?” Indeed, I’d love to see the look on a Sunday School teacher’s face if an 8-year-old brought up such questions.

But the difference between me and Jason is that while his honest questioning causes him to doubt, mine causes me to trust. I’m not saying one is better than the other. I envy his passion for learning, and honestly, my faith and my mind would probably be stronger if I had that to the same degree that he does. I AM saying that he and I have different faith paths, different journeys, and I learned a lot from reading about his.

In no particular order, here’s what I learned:

  • I do have doubts. They’re not crippling or faith-shattering, but sometimes things don’t add up like I want them to.
  • It’s ok to doubt. It means you’re thinking.
  • It’s not ok for doubt to be the end. That means you’ve stopped thinking. Doubt is not a decision you make to live by. It is a step in a process. When you doubt whether your dryer is actually drying your clothes, you don’t just turn it off and give up. You run some tests. You put it on different settings with different clothes inside. You unplug it and plug it back in. You kick it. You stand back and stare at it for a moment, then kick it again. Determining conclusively that your dryer is broken is completely different from doubting that it works. Doubting God’s existence is totally different from determining it conclusively. And if you have determined conclusively that God does or does not exist, I’m sure we’d all love to hear about it.
  • It’s ok to be honest about doubt. It won’t make you a bad Christian (or a bad Atheist for that matter). In fact, it’s much better to have other people to discuss things with instead of going round and round in your own mind about it until your brain begins to resemble the jell-o you’ll be eating in the asylum before long.
  • Lying about your doubt doesn’t make it go away. It just makes you a liar.
  • Doubt does not cancel out faith. Faith does not indicate an absence of doubt.
  • Faith is a choice and an action. We are never guaranteed another year, another day, another breath, but we live as though we believe we will have them by making plans. We don’t sit around paralyzed with indecision about tomorrow’s lunch because we don’t know whether tomorrow will even come. That’s just silly. We believe we will have more time because we always have in the past. Personally, I have never felt let-down by God, so for me, faith is living in the belief that this will continue. If you do feel that God has let you down, you have every right to doubt, but like I said, don’t stop there. Keep running tests. Keep searching.

If you struggle with doubt, seriously, read O Me of Little Faith. If you have no doubts at all, awesome. Keep it up. But if you’re interested in reading about it, this is a good place to start. It’s funny, it’s deep but still easy to read, it’s totally honest, and it has the most footnotes of any non-academic book I’ve ever read. Fun footnotes, though, not the boring kind that make you wish you hadn’t wasted your time and lost your place on the page.

Next week, I’m super-excited to share with you an interview with Jason Boyett in which he answers some big questions like how he responds to the Bible’s many contradictions and whether or not he can set me up with Donald Miller. Stay tuned!!

It has been an exceptionally good week.

Today I made a delicious lentil recipe I found here. I had to cook it longer than the recipe calls for, but it was REALLY good. I stuffed my face with it for lunch AND dinner, and I’m going to have it for dinner again tomorrow (and probably lunch on Friday). Apart from that, this week has just been really good.

The weather is perfect, I saved electricity today by drying my laundry out on the porch, my students and I all came back from spring break with renewed energy, so classes have been particularly enjoyable and productive this week, I have had lots of good conversations with friends, DLF IS A FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR!!!!!!!!!! (which means I am legally obligated to go to Belgium in the next year), I’ve had a couple of really awesome hair days, I read the entire gospel of John yesterday, Lost and Glee were both great, and I’m going to Wilmington this weekend with my roommate. I honestly don’t know that I could ask for a better week. I think to do so would be extremely selfish and picky (but I wouldn’t argue with a boyfriend being thrown into the mix).

I don’t know what else to tell you except good night, pleasant dreams, ask me more questions, and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Exciting News!!

Don’t ask me why, after going to bed at 2:00 a.m., I was awake at 8:30, but I was. Wide awake. I will be asleep much earlier tonight. Anyhoe, because I am an addict, the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is reach for my PunkBerry to see how many people have loved and affirmed me whilst I slept. If I were basing my self-worth on this alone, I would have to conclude that I am only of value to Snapfish, Elance, Writer’s Market and the iTunes store. Thank goodness I’m smarter (and more awesome) than that.

But when I woke up this morning and checked my email, I had a lovely surprise – an email from Jason Boyett, author of the “Pocket Guide” books (Pocket Guide to the Bible, Sainthood, the Afterlife, the Apocalypse, and Adulthood) among other things. Señor Boyett had posted on his blog yesterday that to promote his new book, O Me of Little Faith, when it comes out in May, he’s going to get bloggers round the globe to read it, write reviews on Amazon, blog about it, facebook and twitter it, and just generally talk it up. That’s where I come in.

I emailed him, told him how awesome I was and how awesome y’all are, hinted that there might be an interpretive dance in it for him, and that I’d allude to it in my Neil Diamond musical, and he wrote me back saying he’d send me an advance copy of the book for review!!

Now. To some of you, this means that I’ve just created homework for myself, and you don’t know why a body would do such a thing. To ME, however, it means six things:

  1. A successfully published author knows who I am. This is a very big deal.
  2. I get to INTERVIEW successfully published author, thus becoming best bff’s forever.
  3. Successfully published author was neither offended nor alarmed by my interpretive dance or my Neil Diamond musical, which automatically makes him my best bff forever.
  4. I get a free book, and y’all KNOW how much I love free things.
  5. I get to work on a project! I am awesome at projects.
  6. I don’t know, but I think and hope that he knows Donald Miller and can move me one step closer to meeting/marrying him. Eh? EH?!

And the weather in Asheville was BEAUTIFUL today. A marvelous, stellar day all around.

Dang Floridians

So I noticed on Twitter just now that “Crashes Car While Shaving Privates” is a trending topic, friends, and you just cannot ignore something like that. So I looked it up and found this article about this woman in Florida who had a wreck while shaving her junk AND DRIVING. She was driving to Key West to meet her boyfriend, and get this: HER EX-HUSBAND WAS IN THE CAR WITH HER. He was holding the wheel. So technically, who was driving? She was in the driver’s seat, but he was in charge of the wheel. Originally, my question was, “Why didn’t she just let him drive?” but then my roommate suggested that maybe the ex didn’t have a license. THEN I find out that she’s the one without a license. It was revoked just the day before after a DUI conviction. There are SO many things about this that I do not understand.

A. Why is she shaving her hooha while she’s driving?
B. Why is she driving at all with a revoked license?
C. If she had someone else in the car, why didn’t she let him drive so she could do her grooming?
D. WHY WHY WHY is her ex-husband going with her to meet her boyfriend?
E. Seriously, who ARE these people?

I do not understand anything about this. Nothing at all.

My 20s. All of them.

And just like that, my 20s are over. Man, what an awesome decade. I’m going to try to do a recap of all my 20s birthdays and hit the highlights of some of the incredible things I’ve had the opportunity to do in the last ten years. I’m old, though, so I might not remember all of it, but I’ll give it my best.

20

My 20th birthday was also known as “Princess Day.” In college, we started calling all of our birthdays Princess Day, and we’d wear tiaras and sashes and be treated like princesses. So I think that year, my friend Rachel made like she was going to take me to dinner at Chili’s, but then when we got there, we were “hijacked” in the parking lot by Becky and Faith and taken somewhere else instead (Applebee’s maybe – Chili’s was just too crowded for our large party). And then after dinner, they took me roller skating. You remember that, right, Laura Jenny?

Other than that, 20 was not a very remarkable year, although I think it was the year I did that deviance project for my sociology class – the one where I dressed up like some kind of cracked out super pirate (of the ECU pirates) and ran around downtown handing out candy and doing body builder muscle poses in the elevator of that apartment building.

It was also the year that I met my friend Andy, with whom I shared the most horrific moving adventure ever. Amazingly, we are still friends.

21

By my 21st birthday, my parents had moved from WILKESBORO!!!!! to New Bern, which was only about an hour’s drive from ECU, so my mom came to town for that one, and she and all my friends and I went out to eat at Red Lobster (then one of my favorite places on earth), where I was COVERED in toilet paper by the semi-psychotic waiter who was responsible for celebrating the birthdays. He dressed up like the Gorton’s Fisherman, covered the birthday girl or boy in an entire roll of toilet paper and sang birthday songs through a megaphone – songs like, “Who’s got a birthday? Who? Who? Who? Who?” which was, of course, an adaptation of the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?”

That year was also the year I decided not to work at Caswell again, regretted it, and was down there every chance I got. That was the year of 9-11, and just a few months after 9-11, I decided to leave the country for the first time and go on a mission trip to Honduras. I don’t think anybody saw that decision coming. I had several friends who’d gone to Kenya (while I was not working at Caswell), and when they came back, they all came to me individually and told me I needed to go overseas, and y’all are not going to believe me, but my response to all of them was, “Nope. I’m fine right here with my indoor plumbing and my familiar foods. I’m not going anywhere. I’ma stay right here in the U.S. of A.”

And then one very normal day, I was sitting in the computer lab in the psyc building at ECU, and plain as day, as though someone were standing right over my shoulder, I heard, “Go to Honduras.” I stopped, my whole body stiffened, and (almost out loud, but not because I didn’t want everyone to think I was crazy, so just in my mind) I replied, “Come again?” And the voice said, “You heard me.” And just like that, my world travels began, but not until…

22

I have no idea what I did on my 22nd birthday. I remember that being sort of a rough time. It was my last semester in college, and there was just a lot going on. I’m sure it was celebrated. I just don’t remember how. But to continue the story started just a moment ago, that was the year I left the country for the first time. It was also the year I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. It’s sort of a long story that I’ll share with you in person if you want to know, but by the time I got back from Honduras, I knew I wanted to pursue ESL as a career, and by Christmas of that year, I’d been accepted to NYU’s graduate program. And THAT is a day I’ll never forget. I’d gone home for lunch and checked the mail on my way back out to work. When I opened the envelope and saw the word “Congratulations,” I almost drove off the road. I just couldn’t believe it. And then I started calling everyone I knew to tell them about it. It was a good day.

23

I’m not sure how we celebrated 23 either. I was living in Winterville with my sister and hanging out with Collice and Hilary a lot, so they might have all been involved in the celebration. I just don’t remember what we did.

Anyhoe, that year, I left the country for the second time, had my wisdom teeth removed, moved to New York City, drank alcohol for the first time and got my nose pierced.

24

In grad school, I got involved with the Navigators, a campus ministry similar to InterVarsity, with which I was involved in undergrad. A week or two before I turned 24, the Navigators went on a weekend retreat/conference in upstate NY, and I just had the best time ever. For my birthday, I asked to go to Winter Conference again, and we sort of did have a little mini version of it, which was really nice. And then we sang karaoke. But my clearest memory from that night was Mike and Sonja dragging me, running, through the streets of NYC yelling, “IT’S HER BIRTHDAY!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BETH!! BIRTHDAY GIRL COMING THROUGH!!” So fun.

That year, I:

  • started blogging
  • left the country for the third time to backpack Europe and study Spanish in Spain (see any entry from late June-early August 2004)
  • resolved not to move back to NC
  • decided to move back to NC
  • spent New Year’s in San Francisco
  • moved back to NC

25

For my 25th birthday, Laura Jenny (aka Marieke, aka Partner) and Jason Jones took me to Bojangles. Then we went back to Jason’s house, where they had a cake for me, and Jason made very strong margaritas, and we all decided it would be better to watch a few episodes of Knight Rider before driving home.

Starting that year and continuing for the next few, we had a lot of fun making the dirtydish. There’s not much activity there any more, but I was and still am very grateful for what it did for my writing. It gave me an outlet and the confidence I needed to put my stuff out there for a new audience to read. Thanks, ddo.

And we’ll just hurry things along by saying I’ve left the country at least once a year since that first time. When I was 25, H(P)M and I went to Paris. That was also the year Emily Furr Hogan and I spent New Year’s in Times Square, which was SO fun.

26

No idea. I didn’t even blog about it. I probably went to Chili’s. This might have been the year I had bangs, so it’s possible that I blocked it out. However, this was definitely the year I flew to London to stay with Ann and surprise DLF for New Year’s. Oh what fun we had!!

27

My life in Raleigh by this point had reached a level of autopilot where I was almost curled up in the back napping. I knew I needed some sort of adventure, so just before I turned 27, I signed up for my first Avon Walk. It helped. It also got me to the gym, where the Cutie Von Hottenstein encounters began, which culminated in the weirdest party I’ve ever been to in my life. I also went vegan that year, and oh, that was the year of the most awful semester of my life. I won’t force myself to think about that right now, though.

Gasp!! I don’t think I left the country that year. Did I? If I did, I don’t know where I went. I think I was too busy. Oh my gosh. I need to take two trips this year to make up for it.

I think for my birthday that year, I was supposed to go on a luxurious mountain road trip retreat with some friends, but I became deathly ill and was laid up in bed all weekend. I definitely went to Chili’s, though.And wait, was this the year I had that awesome surprise party, or was that mystery 26? Either way, there was one year when my sweet Brookie, even though she was in the middle of working on her national board certification (which she passed on the first try thank you very much), conspired with Whitney and all them hoes to throw me a surprise party that I almost didn’t go to! Whitney, however, being the genius that she is, got me to go, and it was awesome. Whenever it was.

28

By 28, I’d met Lauren (Josh), whose birthday is the day before mine – HAPPY BIRTHDAY YESTERDAY, BUDDY!!!! – and that was the year we had the photo scavenger hunt party and the Teen Girl Squad cupcakes. This was also the year wherein:

  • Brookie moved to Wilmington 🙁 and got married 🙂
  • I moved in with Josh and Josh
  • I didn’t think I would survive the summer
  • I had a boyfriend
  • Whitney and I went to Mexico for H(P)M’s wedding
  • I became an indentured servant of Wake Tech
  • The Rack Pack walked DC

29

We’re almost done!! Last year’s birthday was lots of fun. We went to Bald Head Island for the weekend, played Wii, rode bikes, lounged around and hung out on the beach. It was a much needed get-away for everyone, and nobody wanted to leave and come back home. We powered through, though, and it went on to be a most momentous year. I completed my indentured servitude, moved to Italy for three months, almost moved to Oregon, and moved to Asheville instead.

I’ve traveled well over 13,000 miles in the past year, visited two new countries (Hungary and Austria) and a few old ones, and now, I’m getting ready to head out on what I’m calling my “30 on 40 Roadtrip.” It’s where I turn 30, having three parties in three cities on I-40. And I’m sorry for the rushed ending, but if I don’t get in the shower, pack and leave very soon, I will actually miss my second party – the one in Raleigh tonight.

But one thing before I leave. If my post yesterday made it sound at all like I am disappointed with where my life has gone, that is not the case. I meant to say that high school senior Beth just could not have imagined all of this – all the travel, adventure, friendships, food, passions, love, opportunities and general awesomeness I’ve had the incredible pleasure of experiencing. I can only hope that my 30s out-do my 20s.

HAPPY BETHDAY!!!!!!!!