Seriously, What Does Happen to a Dream Deferred?

As many of you know, from the summer of 2004 to the spring of 2012, rarely a day went by that I did not wish I lived in Europe. I pursued this dream down many an avenue, rabbit hole, sidewalk chalk painting and dark alley, and then one day, just like that, I knew my chasing was done. The next few months were pretty hard as I tried to figure out where that left me, and I thought a lot about the famous Langston Hughes poem.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Friends, never in all my BS-ing English lit days had I been able to truly understand this poem. I mean I got it. We all get it. Where do dreams go when you stop dreaming them? What happens to them? But when you’re in that place, that vacuum left in the departure of your deepest desire, you know it’s not the dream drying up – it’s you. You feel like the life is just oozing out of you, like you stink of the death of your dream, like a crust has formed over your heart, like you’re carrying the weight of your life that used to float along on hope. You feel like you just might explode.

I thought about this poem, this topic, a lot, and then very slowly, over the course of a few months, I stopped thinking about it so much. I was challenged by it again later when asked what my dreams for my life were, and at that point, I realized that new ones were starting to build up inside me. I would still love to live in Europe, and I would do it if the right opportunity presented itself, but I’m content just exactly where I am. Maybe for the first time ever.

And now when I look back on last spring (and the 8 years leading up to it), I am thankful – thankful for the dream and the adventures it gave me, thankful for the passion it stirred up within me, thankful for the people it led me across, thankful for the lessons I learned in pursuit of it.

Donald Miller’s latest blog post includes these lines:

There is no guarantee our dreams will come true. But is that the point of dreaming? Must our dreams be realized, or is the call to dream them in the first place? … We must understand the realization of the dream is not so much the gift as the dream itself.

So keep on dreaming, kids. Whether you get there or not, it’s totally worth it. And if you can stop off at my place on the way for a night, I’ll make you some tea, and we’ll choreograph a dance.

Very Makey Outey

I’ve been watching a lot of Friday Night Lights on Netflix lately, which, if you don’t know, is about high school football in Texas. It’s pretty much a dude soap opera, and I’m kind of hooked. And since it’s about high school students, there are a lot of bad decisions made, and there’s a lot of making out happening all the time, which has got me thinking about good and bad places/moments to go for the first kiss. Pay attention, gentlemen.

DON’T have the first kiss:

  • in the car – I know this is pretty traditional, but I just find it awkward. You’re all twisted sideways, stuck in the seatbelt, upholstery squeaking against your jeans, not sure where to put your hands. Not romantic.
  • in the midst of a fight – I don’t know why you are suddenly making out if you were just having a fight, but this happens a lot on FNL.
  • in the midst of great stress, like, say, after you’ve accidentally murdered someone and are trying to cover it up. Just sayin’.
  • with your boyfriend’s best friend (or best friend’s girlfriend) while your boyfriend (or best friend) is in the hospital. This is more awkward than the car.

DO have the first kiss:

  • on top of a Ferris wheel – I haven’t seen this happen on FNL, nor have I tried it personally, but it’s on my list. In addition to your kiss, obviously.
  • in the midst of a celebration – Team’s just won a big game, and your girl’s rushed the field with the rest of the town? Lay one on her.
  • at a romantic landmark – This won’t work for most people, but if you can swing it, the top of the Eiffel Tower, the Spanish Steps in Rome, a gondola in Venice…
  • under the stars – Shoot. A planetarium would even do provided no one is feeling queasy from the show.

Any other suggestions?

Europe: An Update

Ok first of all, I’d like to point out that I’ve blogged more this week than I have any week in the past, what, year? In Europe without constant internet connection, borrowing other people’s computers, I’ve had more opportunity to blog than at home. Europe is good for me. So here’s a quick update:

I arrived in Madrid on Saturday morning, where I was picked up by Jorge and taken to the train station. I got on a train and rode to Caceres, where I was picked up by Tim and taken to Betsy’s apartment. I spent the rest of Saturday, all day Sunday and Monday breakfast with Tim and/or Betsy. They introduced me to lots of fun people, I got to go to church on Sunday with them, and we went up a big hill to a chapel where you can see the whole city. It was lovely. On Monday morning, they put me on a bus to Bejar, where Craig picked me up. I stayed one night with him and his lovely (Spanish) wife, Ada. Bejar is tee-tiny, y’all. Like I think I could walk the whole thing in about ten minutes. They were cool, though, and one of their sons force-fed me bananas all day. I definitely got my five that day.

On Tuesday, Craig put me on a bus back to Madrid, where I found AMARIS!!!!! waiting for me at the Ibiza Metro stop. I am not sure that Madrid was ready for us together, but I think it handled the situation quite well. We traded bags and headed out to meet Chris and Paul, two guys she’d met through her classmate Kent, who was staying in the same hostel with them. Are you confused? Welcome to Amaris.

The four of us (later five when Kent joined us) walked what seemed to be a large portion of the city looking for a restaurant that had vegetarian paella, but by the time we found it, it was closed, so we went across the street to a market that had absolutely delicious mozarella concoctions among other things. Then we hit up a bakery our friend Adam had told me about. Amaris bought me an empanada de dulce de leche that was aaammaaaaazziiiiiiiiiiinnng (I sang that) for my birthday, and then we made a video that I think she put on facebook. After that, we went up to a park that overlooks the city, where we took super silly photos. Super.

Jorge picked me up around 8:30 and took me back to his house, where I had dinner with him and his wife Elisabeth. They are both German but have been in Spain for 20-some-odd years. Jorge has actually been there longer, and the story of how Elisabeth got there is both hilarious and insane, so ask me to tell it to you later. I spent the night with them, hung out with them the next morning, and around 3 in the afternoon, Jorge took me back to the airport. As I sat on the plane, exhausted, I took comfort in the fact that I would only be in one city in Italy. One city! For two and a half whole days!! What joy! What bliss! I fell asleep.

When I woke up, y’all, we were flying over the Alps. If you have never done this, you absolutely must try to. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was really cloudy, and I couldn’t really see anything. Then we broke through a cloud, and holy crap there they were. Like RIGHT THERE. Like we could have dropped a skiier. I took pictures, but they don’t really do it justice or properly show just how close we were. I’ll show them to you when I get home anyway, but seriously, you need to do it. I just kept imagining the Von Trapps crossing them on foot (even though I know they weren’t the same mountains they crossed), and I was amazed.

Ok, so. I got into downtown Milan around 8:15 last night, where Daniel picked me up and took me to Ron and Amy’s house. They had prepared a delicious meal for me, and we chatted for a bit. Then Ron brought me back to Joi and Daniel’s, where I’ll be staying while I’m here. Bless their hearts, they had made up the sleeper sofa and turned down the corner of the bedding. All it would have needed to be a fancy bed and breakfast was a mint on the pillow. Oh but this morning…

Y’all, no mint is necessary with a breakfast like that. Joi made pancakes and homemade apple sauce. They had peanut butter, maple syrup, honey, bananas and walnuts to put on top. It was absolutely amazing. Then they drove me up to Lake Como to hang out and walk around. I will show you pictures of this too, but I’ll just say this: cute town + serene lake + snow-capped Alps + risotto alla parmigiana + knowledge that all this is accessible by train from Milan = Spain Who?

That’s been about it. On the way back, we stopped by a health food store so Joi and Daniel could get oatmeal. Joi said they sell it in regular grocery stores now, but they used to only sell it in health food stores and pharmacies. Yes, pharmacies. Because it’s a health food. I think they really just wanted me to see all the amazing vegetarian options available here. For the record, there are many. We came back to their place for a snack of dried figs, apples, walnuts and cheese.

Now we’re resting a bit before I go over to Ron and Amy’s again for dinner. Actually, I think we might be going out with an Italian guy from their church, but I’m not 100% sure about that. We’ll see.

Okie doke. That was your “short” update. If I have time again before Sunday, I’ll try to give you another one, but I don’t know if that will happen. I would love to tell you more when I get home, though, so please ask me lots of questions if there’s anything you want to know.

Love y’all!

Oh Golly Gee

There is SO much to tell you. I want to do a birthday post because this past year has been quite the journey, and I have learned a LOT. I want to tell you all about my travels thus far (For those who do not know, I am in Spain at the moment, going to Italy on Wednesday). I want to explain that I am not using contractions in this post because I am on a Spanish keyboard that uses a funky one I am not sure will translate properly. Oh hey, I did one! Success!

But I also want to go to bed because it is after midnight, and I have to get on a bus to Madrid in the morning. So I will keep it short. The people I have met so far are amazing, and I have had so much fun seeing the country and hanging out with them. They have been extremely welcoming and taken excellent care of me. And I am pretty sure I am allergic to my apartment because when I am not there, I feel fine, but when I go back, I start coughing, and my nose starts running. Mold? I am suspicious. When I left, I had chest and head congestion, but after running through the airport to catch a 6-hour flight, sitting in recycled air for all that time, barely sleeping for the past four nights and traveling to a foreign place with foreign germs, I feel totally fine. You are suspicious too.

Anyhoe, tomorrow, I head back to Madrid to meet up with Amaris (!!!!!), and then I head to ITALY!!!!!! Then back to Madrid to hang out with Ana!!!!!!! Then back home. (!?) I will be happy to fill you all in on the whole trip when I get back, but for now I would just like to close with this…

When I got on the bus, I opened up my journal to jot down some thoughts. It has a Bible verse on every page, and this was what I saw today:
“I am teaching you the way of wisdom;
I am guiding you on straight paths.” Prov. 4:11

Not bad, huh?

2012, Why You Be So Fast?

Um, I’d just like to point out that we are already through almost 1/12 of 2012. What? Where has this month gone?! Oh right, lesson planning, old episodes of Wings on Netflix, and Words with Friends. And about 50 cups of hot chocolate. I’m having one now as a matter of fact, but I made it with water instead of almond milk because it has less sugar that way, and I want to be asleep by 10 tonight because tomorrow’s a hair washing day. And that, friends, is my life.

I know I said I wasn’t going to make any New Year’s resolutions, but I do want to do a few slightly more exciting things with the next eleven twelfths of the year. But we’ll just call these whatever the annual equivalent of a bucket list would be. Is there a word for that? “Goals” doesn’t seem exciting enough. It’s too corporate, too type A, too…predictable for me.

The Awesomeness Conspiracy

In the pursuit of awesomeness in 2012, I will:

  • make videos for the interwebs
  • surprise people
  • surprise myself
  • not be afraid to fail
  • go swimming
  • flee the country
  • make crafty things
  • salsa dance
  • send real mail
  • party like it’s 1999
  • stay up past midnight (but not on school nights)
  • make rockin’ playlists
  • not beat myself up over not finishing the crafty things I started
  • frolic in parks
  • sing karaoke like nobody’s business
  • be grateful
  • be sneaky
  • tell people how great they are
  • go to New York

Word.

What I’ve Really Been Doing

Ok so now that everybody pretty much knows, I guess I can talk about it.

I might be moving to Europe. It’s weird to type it out into the world like that. So far, it’s just been discussed privately among a few close, trusted friends and people I knew would understand and be excited with me. Honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’ve been taking things one step at a time, and really, at any point, the whole process could just be over, and that would be it. We’ll see. But for now, we press on.

I’m applying to go with World Team either to Italy or Spain. This is the same organization I went to Italy with back in June, and so far, this process has been…quite thorough. It’s been very cool – I’m learning a lot about myself as I go – but it has also been taking up lots and lots of time that I might have otherwise spent blogging. Or (let’s be honest) watching every episode of Bones (again) on Netflix. The application alone was at least twelve typed pages, and then they sent me the personality tests, the spiritual gifts test and the Bible tests (one of which I told you I flunked miserably, the other I haven’t been brave enough to take yet).

Then they sent me the official invitation to join them for a week of information, evaluation and mutual assessment, and suddenly things got really real. First of all, I need about $700 to make it happen, which is the first real commitment I’ve had to make. Until now, it’s all been literally on paper. Just theoretical. Just a really, really amazing dream of a possibility. Just paella and/or pizza, European public transit, Romance languages and adventure abounding on every side. But when it hits your pocketbook, it hits home.

Then, speaking of home, I started thinking about all the things I’ll miss if I leave. Weddings, birthdays, family reunions, my godchildren growing like weeds, Baby Josh, maybe Moravian Sugar Cake in my PJs with my family on Christmas morning. I don’t know what I’ll miss and what I won’t, but I know I’m asking my family and friends to make as big a sacrifice as I’d be making in going.

But then I started thinking of all the things I’d miss if I didn’t go, namely the chance to do something awesome, something bigger than myself, something impossible, something I’ve felt compelled to do for the last seven years. I don’t know the details of what’s in store for me. I just know that if I don’t at least try, I’ll always regret it and wonder.

I think y’all would too. You know me. You know I’ve got this crazy pull toward Europe. I honestly think if I didn’t at least try to go, some of you would be disappointed. So I’m asking you to sacrifice with me, but also to share in the awesomeness, knowing that your letting go is fueling something incredible.

I didn’t intend to make this a fundraising post, so you can stop reading now if you want it to not be about money. But if you’re still with me, and you want to give a little bit to help me get to the assessment week, please contact me. Comment, call, email, text, smoke signals, carrier pigeon, dream invasion, note in study hall, whatever. But maybe don’t send me a pigeon. You know how I feel about birds.

And the Bad Blogger Award Goes to…

I mean dag, y’all. I suck at this. I’m sorry. Here’s what’s been happening.

I’ve been working. We’ve been in class for three weeks now, and my students are fabulous. As always, I love them to pieces. I’ve been having about 15 every day, and yesterday, at our 2nd registration (out of 3), I got EIGHT more. Holy crap. We literally had to change classrooms in the middle of class because we would not all physically fit into the room we were in. And the church where we have classes is doing some work on our two biggest classrooms, so those are currently out of commission. All I can say is God help the workmen to finish those rooms before the next registration, or I’ll be teaching in the sanctuary, and I’m pretty sure that would weird everyone out.

My afternoon classes have been having pretty decent attendance considering we’ve only had the 1st registration. I think they’ll pick up significantly next week with this new batch of students, and the slang/idioms/phrasal verbs class is FUN. It’s actually pretty hard work for the students, but I had them do some writing for me the other day, and they’re really getting it. I wish I had some samples to share with you, but alas, I gave them back already.

Oh! I do have a pretty amazing story for you, though. I was having dinner with some friends last night (old and new), and one of them was Italian. He’s here studying at NC State for a semester, and he was telling us about a mistake that he’s been making in English for the past month that no one bothered to correct him on until recently.

In Italian, you can ask someone for a favor by saying “per favore,” or you can ask someone more politely for a bigger favor by saying “per piacere,” which, literally translated, means “for pleasure.” So this guy has been asking people “politely” for “big favors” by saying, “Can I ask you a pleasure?” or, “Could you do me a pleasure?”

Well, his friends have just been letting him say this in coffee shops and gas stations all up and down the eastern seaboard, but to make the story even better, he gave us an example that was supposed to be completely innocuous, but he didn’t know that the thing he was requesting could also have another meaning. He wanted to convey that he’d been asking people for “pleasures” and then just ordering simple things in a coffee shop, but his example was, “Excuse me, could you do me a pleasure? Could you give me a muffin?”

Oh my, how we did laugh! And then we ate crepes.

I’ve been doing more things, but to tell you all of them in one post might be a tad overwhelming, so I’ll save them for another post (which I’ll go ahead and write and then set up to post itself next week some time so we don’t go this long again without having some sort of update). Ciao, y’all!

I Think I’m Back Now

Physically, I’ve been back in the country since Sunday afternoon. But my brain is just now catching up. Y’all, I’ve been SO tired all week, and today is the first day I almost feel normal. The weekend went a little something like this:

Friday

Friday night, after a full day of all our stuff (kids camp, etc.), we went out for a fancy dinner in a restaurant in a suburb of Milan. The food was amazing, and there was an endless parade of desserts that made my day. We didn’t get back to the hotel, though, until after midnight, and then we had to get up at 5:00 the next morning because we’d decided to go to VENICE!! This was an idea we’d tossed around early, early on in the planning, but we’d decided against it because it’s farther from Milan and more expensive to get there. HOWEVER, because this year marks the 150th anniversary of the uniting of Italy, they’re selling train tickets at discounted rates (presumably so that people can travel around and see the whole united country). So we got two-for-one tickets, and away we went.

Saturday

Like I said, 5:00 a.m. Barf. It was basically horrible because Saturday just happened to be my hair-washin’ day, so I had to get up to make that happen, and then we had to leave the hotel at 6 to go to the train station to get on our 6:50 train. But in the end, it was totally worth it.

We got to Venice around 9:30 and were unleashed upon the city. Our group of eight broke up into smaller groups, and Mark and I set out for Murano, which is a little island just north of Venice where they make glass things. We went to see a glass blowing demonstration, and then after doing a little souvenir shopping, we decided to try and find some lunch. What appeared to be the main “street” was a water street like those in Venice, which was really nice because it felt like we were in Venice, but there weren’t a million people. The water was calm, the boats were parked, the restaurants had seating on the sidewalk right beside the water, and you could hear the guy down the street playing the accordion. Seriously, if y’all ever go to Venice, this is the place to be. It’s like Venice, but a little cheaper and much less hectic.

So we’re sitting there finishing our pizza and getting ready to ask for the check when a girl walks up and says my name, and I look up, and it’s a girl I knew in Asheville. Yes, leave it to me to run into someone I know in a foreign country. I knew that she was there, but since we hadn’t been planning on going to Venice, it hadn’t occurred to me to get in touch with her, but there she was with her new fiancé, headed to the grocery store.

So we chatted with them for a little bit and marveled at how weird it was that we’d just run into each other there, and then they started telling us all the insider secrets on where to go and what to do. This, friends, was the greatest thing that could have possibly happened because they knew where to go for a 50-cent gondola ride.

Yes, that’s right. I said 50-cent gondola. Now, normally these things are like a million euros (not really, but they may as well be because there’s no way I could afford even half an hour on one), but those are the ones that ride you all up and down the canal. But come on, who needs that, right? The only thing you really need with a gondola ride is the photo op. You just do it for the experience, and the experience doesn’t really have to break the bank and take up the whole day. Sixty seconds will do you just fine, and that’s about what you get for 50 cents because it literally just takes you from one bank of the canal to the other.

Y’all, it was perfect. It made my life, no joke. It was the best spent money ever, and that includes hair gel purchases.

After that, we made our way to the gelateria to which we’d been referred, and it was also pretty magical. Then, all the items on our agenda checked off, we just ambled our way back to the train station, stopping in buildings and side streets and bakeries and stores all along the way.

We hopped back on the train around 6:15 and headed back to Milan, where we had to pack before going to bed because we had to get up at 5:30 the next morning to head home.

Mid-Story Recap

So just to remind you, we’ve now had late night, early morning, busy/exciting/exhausting day, and late night with early morning looming.

Sunday

We got up at 5:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m. on Saturday in NC – This will be important in a moment.), dressed, tossed the last of the stuff into the bags and headed downstairs to check out. Our ride to the train station arrived at 6:30 to take us to where we got on the bus that would take us to the airport. We got to the airport around 8:00 (2:00 a.m. EST) and checked in for our 10:00 flight.

Our “10:00 flight” boarded at 11:00 and then proceeded to sit on the ground for three hours while they “fixed” a valve. The captain gave us frequent updates that were slightly less than reassuring:

  • The valve isn’t working.
  • We’re not sure if the valve isn’t working, or if it’s just the indicator light.
  • We’re on the phone with our folks in Dallas, trying to figure it out.
  • We’re going to just close the valve and NOT USE IT ON OUR EIGHT AND A HALF HOUR FLIGHT.
  • We can’t get the panel off to get to the valve because the screws are stripped.
  • We’re drilling the screws out now.
  • Ok, we’ve got the panel off, and we’re working on the valve.
  • We’ve got the valve closed. Now we’re trying to find new screws to put the panel back on.
  • We’ve got the panel back on. We’re finishing up the log book, and once we get it back on board, we can take off.

Then it sounded like the plane was driving through a large and violent automatic car wash, at which point, Mark whips out Joshua 10:11, which reads, “As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.” Thanks, Mark.

  • Ok, folks, we’re all set for take-off, so if you would, make sure your seats and tray tables are in their upright and locked positions and that your seat belts are securely fastened. Flight crew, prepare for take-off.

Then it suddenly got really hot on the plane and something smelled like old, overheated hair dryer, and that’s when we prayed and took off.

Fast-forward to New York.

We landed at JFK around 5:00, which was when we were supposed to land at RDU, but clearly we had missed that flight, so they had re-booked us on a JetBlue flight, which was nice, but it didn’t take off until 10:00 (4:00 a.m. on Monday in Milan – Remember how we woke up at 5:30? Yeah.). So we went through passport control, got our bags, went through customs, took the AirTrain to the terminal where JetBlue is, got our boarding passes, re-checked our bags and went through security again. Half-asleep, we found and ate some food, and then we all fell asleep at the gate while we waited for our flight home.

After that, it was pretty smooth-sailing, but I didn’t get home until at least 12:30 (6:30 Milan time), and then I had to get up at 7:00 to go to work on Monday.

So yeah. Beat. But I think I’m back now, or at least well on my way. And thankyaJesusandamen for a long weekend to recuperate even more. I am very much looking forward to it.

And I’m Off!

Y’all, I thought this week was never ever ever going to end. It was a good week, but you know how it is when you’re anticipating something truly awesome, and it just feels like it’s a million years away even when it’s only a day away. So knowing that work this morning was the last thing I had to do before I could let it all go for a weekend and a half, it was by far the slowest four hours of my life.

But it’s over!! And I’ve been checking things off the to-do list like a mad woman. Father’s Day cards are mailed, laundry is being done at this very moment, photo copies have been made of credit cards and passport (just in case), AND…

I AM 100% DEBT FREEEEEEEE!!!! That’s right, friends! The student loan is paid off completely, as are all my credit cards. I don’t know what to do with this feeling, or even what this feeling is really. Elation? Definitely. Relief? Yep. Exhaustion? Totally, but I think that’s unrelated. Mostly, though, I think it’s freedom. For the past several years, I’ve had to factor into my budget this large sum of money each month. Without it, it feels like my options widen significantly. I know it will be very easy to find something else on which to spend that money, but that’s just the thing. I can spend that money on something else. Or I can save it. It’s mine to do with as I please.

And right now, it pleases me to go to Italy and eat enormous bowls of pasta. I’ll let y’all know when I get there, but beyond that, I may not have much internet access. I’ll see if I can set up a few stories to tell themselves to you, though.

WOOHOOO!!!