To College Girls Everywhere

Dear College Girl,

I see you on campus every day, and as a woman who’s been where you are, lived through it, and gotten over the bitterness, there are a few things I’d like to tell you.

  1. Enjoy this time in your life when you can spend all day in a t-shirt and the bottoms of your choice. I see you in jeans (my personal preference), skirts and running shorts, and I can tell you that unless you become a gym teacher, you probably won’t get to wear that outfit on a daily basis for much longer. So appreciate it while you can. Wake up in the morning, throw on your sneaks, put that hair in a bun, and be off with you! LOVE the fact that you literally don’t have to change out of your jabambas to go to class. OWN it. Because a day is coming (and that right soon) when you’ll be frantically shopping five minutes before the mall closes for professional shoes that don’t make you want to punch a baby. Oh, college girl, if only I could wear my flip-flops or my tennis shoes to work every day. Hang on to that for as long as possible.
  2. Enjoy this time in your life when you live, eat, hang out and go to class with your friends. When you leave college, it takes a lot more effort to see these people. It takes even more effort to meet new ones. It can be done, but right now, you are pretty much on top of each other all the time. You couldn’t get away from them if you wanted to. I know because I remember times in college when I wanted to get away from them, and I couldn’t. Take the time you need for yourself, but don’t take for granted the fact that you have all your buddies by your side.
  3. You are probably not fat. There are, of course, those among us who will slim down as adults and look back on college as their “heavy years,” but the majority of us are just spreading as we age. I look back at pictures of myself from late high school/early college – an era in which I thought I was huge – and WISH I could be that size again. Your tight little buns and perky boobs are just waiting for gravity to find them, and it is going to happen, so college girl, work those tiny shorts while you can because in ten years, you’ll be wearing biker shorts underneath your work skirts to prevent the chub rub.
  4. College boys are stupid. Ok, maybe not ALL college boys, but I think most of the grown men I know would look back at their college years and agree that they were stupid then. Fair warning: They will always find farting hilarious. I know, I know. I don’t understand it either, but it never changes. It’s like toilet humor is just hard-wired into them. Maybe it comes with the Y chromosome. But all this to say that that boy you’re agonizing over? He’s stupid. If he treats you badly or doesn’t recognize your awesomeness or doesn’t acknowledge you at all, it’s not because there’s something wrong with you. It’s because he’s an idiot.
  5. You are awesome. You. That other girl is awesome too, but she’s not awesome like you are, and vice versa. If you’re not filling the spot the world holds for you because you’re trying to be someone else, the world is out of whack. Be yourself. We need you.
  6. “Why?” is a great question. Why do you want that jacket? Why did that person upset you? Why do you feel like you can’t talk to so-and-so about such-and-such? Answering the question every time will help you deal with people in a kinder, more gracious way every time. It will also prevent you from buying a bunch of unnecessary crap (though probably not all of it), and it will help you express yourself and your needs.
  7. Find non-college students. Be friends with them. Maybe you can babysit for a local family, and maybe they’ll occasionally have you over for dinner. Babies, by the way, are also awesome. Hang out with them whenever you can. They’re cute. They’ll love you. Their parents will love it. Everyone wins.
  8. Leave campus. Go to the movies, go to the beach, go to a restaurant, go home, go anywhere at least once a month.
  9. Work that student ID!! College girl, do you know how much free stuff you can get with a college ID? Me neither. Find out. If nothing else, go see as many movies as you can with that bad boy because hoo-boy, they ain’t cheap without one. You can also get reduced rates on travel and sometimes free entrance to museums and zoos and stuff.
  10. Study abroad. A friend asked me last weekend what I would tell myself if I could go back ten years and talk to 22-year-old me. I said 22 was about the time I started getting things right, but if I could go back and talk to 18-year-old me, I’d tell her to study abroad. It’s my only real regret from college. Do it. Do it now. Go. Seriously. For me.

There’s more we could talk about, but ten is a nice round number, so that’s all for now. If you have any questions, I’d love to have you over for dinner. I don’t have any babies for you to squeeze, but I will let you observe the saggy nature of my buttocks while I cook you fresh foods in natural substances (as opposed to questionable produce in Golden Griddle mystery cooking goo). Let me know if you’re interested.

Love,
Beth

Advice to Movers

A long time ago, I posted the “7 Stages of Moving,” a description of what happens when you change residences. It’s spot-on, I’m told, though I don’t know how helpful it is except for maybe raising awareness of what is going to happen to you as you pack. But having just moved again, I’d now like to offer you some advice. If you’re getting ready to move, listen up.

Start Packing Early. Way Early.

It is NEVER too early to start purging and packing. Even months ahead of time is fine. You’ve got plenty of stuff you’re not going to use between now and then (out-of-season clothes, extra linens, etc.) and plenty of decor you can do without for a bit. Go ahead and take down your curtains if you can. Pack up all those books you keep meaning to read but know you won’t before the move. It will make unpacking more fun because every time you open a box, you’ll be all, “Oh YAY! I’d totally forgotten about this!” It’s like getting new stuff.

ORRRR…

When you open a box and are like, “What the eff is this?” you can just take the whole box straight to Goodwill. Bonus!

Get Three Times As Many Boxes As You Think You Need

Twice during my most recent packing, I thought I only needed maybe eight more boxes, and both times, I went to the ABC store and got 10-15, and BOTH times, I packed ALL of them. So do yourself a favor, and when you think you only need eight more boxes, get 25. If you don’t need them for packing, just leave them in your old place so that when you go back to finish cleaning up, you’ve got a couple of disposable trash cans there waiting for you.

Take the Week Off

W-Josh and I both happened to have the whole week off of work before we moved, and it was the best thing ever. You think you need time off after you move, but you are wrong. You’ll be tired, but you’ll make it. You’ll be less tired if you give yourself plenty of time before the move to be prepared for it. We did such a good job that all day Friday, we were just sitting around. We wanted to try and get a few loads of stuff in if we could, but we couldn’t because they were cleaning the carpet (which was fine because our lease didn’t start until Saturday anyway), so I literally sat around all day watching Friday Night Lights and waiting for 5:30 to roll around so we could get things started.

You may not need to take a whole week off. A day or two might suffice, but I’m telling you, if you can do it, do it. It will keep you sane.

Beg

This is the most important thing I learned from this move. People are not deceived by promises of pizza and/or beer. You can’t dress up a move as a party. Everybody knows it’s not fun. It’s sweaty and exhausting, and too many people are on gluten-free and/or Paleo diets these days for pizza to be much of an incentive. But if your friends and family love you (and of course they do), they just need to know that they are needed – desperately, desperately needed.

So beg. Beg a LOT. Beg often. Beg in emails. Beg in person. Beg over the phone. Beg on Facebook. Beg on Twitter. Beg with pain in your voice and tears in your eyes and a slight limp or some bandages. You don’t even have to fake it if you think hard enough about how heavy your crap is and how much of it you have. Or if you’ve sliced your thumb open with an industrial tape gun.

And no matter how many people you have committed to helping you, when someone asks if you still need help, the answer is YES. Always, every time, period. Even if 20 people have said they’ll help, you still need more help. You just never know what’s going to come up, and hey, if 35 people show up, boom! Easy work. That’s how we got a full truck unloaded in twelve minutes. TWELVE.

Set Up Teams

You can have an outdoor team carrying stuff out of the old place while an indoor team cleans up behind them. That way, when everything’s out, it’s also clean, and you don’t have to come back later.

You can have an outdoor team carrying stuff from the truck to the door and an indoor team set up to put things in place in your new digs. That way, when everything’s in, it’s also arranged, put-together and partially unpacked.

You can have a muscle team and a motivation team. The muscle team does the heavy lifting while the motivation team cheers and keeps Gatorade at the ready.

You can have a moving team and an unpacking team. The moving team comes on moving day to do its thing, and the unpacking team comes the next day to put all your books on shelves, clothes in drawers, spices on racks, dishes in cabinets, etc.

Help Other Movers Move

This is powerful stuff, man. The more people you’re willing to help, the more people you’ll have willing to help you. It’s like a co-op. Start building up your network now even if you’re not planning on moving any time soon.

That’s all I’ve got! What advice do you have to offer movers?

Must. Get Off. The Couch.

So I’m sick. This is like the 5th cold I’ve had this year, which is ridiculous. I generally get one cold in November and maybe one in April or May and that’s it. This is just out of control. But I don’t want to let it get me down. There comes a point when you feel like another episode of How I Met Your Mother would just be a waste of a perfectly good Saturday. For the record, that point comes after eight episodes (plus one episode each of The Office, Up All Night and 30 Rock). So eleven. Eleven episodes. A dozen is one too many.

And also, I feel like today is already a success on the adventures because Donald E. Miller (E for Effing) CALLED ME ON THE PHONE. Rang me right up. Said, “Hey, is this Beth?”

And I said, “Why yes, yes it is, and who might you be, Mr. Sultry Voice?”

And he said, “This is Don Miller,” to which I laughed, “Oh Don, how lovely of you to call! I got the peonies you sent, and they are simply breathtaking.”

“I’m glad you liked them,” he demured, and I could hear the blush in his voice, but he cleared his throat at that point, and I sensed him manning up for the real purpose of the call.

“The reason I called,” continued Don, “was to ask you a question.”

“I’m all yours. I mean, I’m all ears, Don. Go ahead.”

Deep breath. Pause. Muffled encouragement from his buddies in the background. “Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”

“Why Don, what a surprise. I thought you were in Tennessee.”

“I am. But I thought maybe we could Skype it?”

And that’s why I have to get off the couch now. I have a Skype date with Don in five hours, and I don’t have a thing to wear.

OR

He called to thank me for going to see Blue Like Jazz last night, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Both the movie and the phone call, I mean. That is the true story.

But since “Talk to long-time quasi-celebrity crush on the phone” isn’t on the list of Awesome April Adventures, I feel like I should at least make a friendship bracelet or find a park and swing. But both of those would require me to get off the couch. So off the couch I must get.

The truth is I don’t know what to do with myself. I thought my life was going in a particular direction, and I was all geared up to do what needed to be done for that, but now it seems that I’m headed a different way – a way I didn’t make a plan for – so I don’t know what my next steps are. And in the absence of a plan, my default is to sit on the couch and watch TV. But that doesn’t help things. What I really need is to just start moving, like when you get into a cab and say, “GO!” and figure out your destination a few blocks later. Ok, so I’ve never done that. You know who does that? The people on How I Met Your Mother. Apparently, for all my talk of hating to plan, it turns out I need at least a rough outline. But in the absence of a rough outline or even a next stop, I still need to get off the couch.

I don’t know where I’m going, but I should probably start by changing out of my jabambas.

Adventure Time All the Time

There’s been a lot of talk in my life lately about adventure. Basically I want one. All the time, always. And I’m willing to go to great lengths to get one, which often means I leave the country. It’s almost like a drug, and my addiction to it started in high school with small things. I grew up in a small town that did not offer much in the way of wholesome entertainment for adolescents, so we had to make our own fun. They were silly things really – go to K-Mart and take pictures of each other inside big trash cans (clean ones they were selling, not dirty ones they were using), put weird things in friends’ mailboxes, sidewalk chalk friends’ driveways in the middle of the night, throw a frisbee onto the roof of the church, compile elaborate and precisely designed medleys and choreograph lip-sync routines for them. And this may come as a surprise to some of you, but we did all of these things totally sober.

The silliness continued into college, but as I got old enough and started making enough money to go on grander adventures, that is what I wanted to do. Ringing and running people’s dorm rooms just wasn’t as fun once we realized we could be at the beach at dawn and still get back in time for our 11:15 classes. Then it was driving through the night to catch a concert in Virginia Beach, a wedding in New Jersey and another concert in Raleigh all in about a 36-hour period. And before I knew it, I was on a plane to Honduras, then I was living in New York, backpacking through Europe, sleeping in airports with strangers, working at a community college in Raleigh…

Wait. Did anyone else just hear that record scratch?

The thing I love about adventure is that you come away with the best stories. I’m learning, though, that you can go on a big trip and not come away with a single awesome story, or you can stay right where you are and make your own adventure. When we were in high school, we didn’t even need to leave the neighborhood to do something we’d still be talking about fifteen years later. Shoot, when I worked at Caswell, we didn’t even have to leave the camp.

The secret is to find or make the fun wherever you are, and it can be as simple as doing something totally out of the ordinary. G.Lover and I were just on our way home from Durham, and we started talking about The Hunger Games. She hasn’t read the books yet, and I told her she could borrow my copy of the first one, but I thought it was at work. I work in a church building, and if you can believe it, those suckers gave me a key, so I suggested we go over there and get the book out of my cabinet. It was 10:30 on a Saturday night, so of course there was no one there, but we were both sort of nervous that there would be an alarm or a security person or something. And even though I’m at this place every day of the week, it felt completely wrong to be there on a weekend night. The red light coming from the exit signs was alarmingly bright, all the shadows were different, it was eerily quiet, and I was sure that the police would show up at any moment. On top of that, the book wasn’t there.

Another way to make your own fun is to develop your sense of curiosity and amusement. When I lived in New York, I was always fascinated by the people – who they were, how they became that, what they wanted, where they were going, why they were doing what they were doing. It was a never-ending source of entertainment. I miss that about NYC. I feel like people here are blander than there (friendly for sure, but nothing like this guy), but I’m starting to wonder if I came with that preconceived notion and therefore set Raleigh up to be boring before I ever arrived.

What if I spent more time out amongst the masses? What if I did more people watching and made up more stories about them? What if I made riskier mischief? What if I chose to be amused rather than annoyed? What if I spent less time watching Netflix and more time watching cloud formations or kids at the park or couch-to-5k-joggers at the lake? What if I were less concerned with my to-do list and more psyched about my karaoke song list, less worried about losing 20 pounds and more excited about salsa dance parties in my living room, less afraid of what people might think of my writing and more curious about what my characters might do? What if I had more fun on purpose? This sounds pretty awesome.

So here’s what I propose: For the month of April, I will do something creative, out of the ordinary, borderline crazy or just totally different every day in the name of fun and adventure. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments. I’m not promising I’ll do all the suggestions, and I will not sacrifice my morals or my sleep for any of them, but other than that, I am open to taking risks. And if you want to join me for any of them, I’d love that. Love it. Please join me.

Suggestions can be little things I can do it five minutes or big things that’ll take me a whole weekend. Whatever you’ve got, shoot.

I Second That Emotion

Amaris turns 30 today, and in honor of that, I’d like to say (in the voice of the Wilkesboro Western Steer announcer), “Onward Hoe would like to wish Amaris Hames a very happy birthday. Happy birthday, Amaris.” We were up late last night working on several projects, this being one of them. She wanted to make a list of things she wished someone had told her before she turned 30, and since this happened last night, technically, I did tell her some of them before she turned 30. But then she went to bed before being able to put them to good use.

Anyhoe, it’s a good list, and since I came up with several of them, I’m boosting it from her blog and putting it here. Enjoy!

1.  Do not let the words of someone else determine your joy.  Amen.
2.  When you take the lid off a boiling pot of anything, that lid will drip on your toes.  And it will suck.
3.  There will come a time when doing simple things like closing the car door or walking downhill will make your body hurt.  Like a lot.  This time is coming soon.
4.  Take care of your skin. It really, REALLY matters. It will sag in places you didn’t think it would sag. And this is just the beginning.
5.  Invest in a good bra.  It will change your life.  Don’t be afraid to have a great sales woman feel you up to make it happen.
6.  There is no path that anyone SHOULD go down.  Anybody that tells you that is lying.  You have to figure out what YOUR story is.
Everyone’s story is different.
Everyone’s.
7.  However, there ARE some paths that no one should go down. Like, butt implants. Or cocaine.
8.  There will come a day when you are so excited to stay home on a Friday night.  Embrace it.  And stock up on Ben and Jerry’s.  Cuz’ you’s gawn need it.
9.  Learn the Tim Tam Slam.
10. You know a lot less than you think you do.  Don’t assume.  Ask more questions.
11. You know a lot more than you think you do.  Be confident.
12. Create.  As often as possible.
13. Figure out how to use who you are for the benefit of everyone.  Don’t be less of who you are because it inconveniences someone else.
14. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s better.
15. However, don’t be afraid to spend money on really good shoes.  They will make you much happier every day.
16. Be vulnerable with people who will love and care for you, not just dudes who act like they care so they can get into your drawers.
17. Keep a chocolate drawer to keep you sane.
18. Don’t iron your hair. It does not work like a flat iron.
19. If you’re not sure that it’s just going to be a fart, hold it in until you can get to a restroom.
20. Cancel memberships you no longer use.  Even if you think they’re going to end on their own, double check.
21. Be thoughtful and kind.  They’re more important than being important.
22. When you’re stressed out, puppies really do make everything better.  Go find one.
23. If you can’t find a puppy, The Three Amigos and mint-chocolate-chip ice cream will suffice.
24. Men at 30 have the potential to look DRASTICALLY different than they did at twenty.  You should be aware of this before you make any long-term decisions.
Drastically.
25. Don’t wait on somebody else to give you flowers.  Fill your home with them.
26. There will be a year in your early/mid-twenties that will TOTALLY suck.  But it will get better.  Promise.
27. Do NOT, under any circumstances, believe the following myths:
– You’re not grown up until you have children.
– You’re not married because you’re not “ready.”
– You’re not lovable if you don’t have a man in your life.
– If a boy doesn’t like you, you need to change.
– After you get married, you can’t travel any more.
– If you’re not married, you are alone.
– The older you get, the less likely you are to find someone.
28. It may require you to eat a lot of ramen later, but go. on. vacation.  Your soul needs it.
29. Don’t be lame and don’t be an asshole.
30. Dance it out.

Created

A lot of things have come together today to form these thoughts, and while they’re not yet fully coherent, I wanted to share with you what I’ve got so far.

We are not polliwogs. Wait, you already knew that? That’s because you’re brilliant. But allow me to explain. We come into the world as fully formed human beings. We’re not born in some other form to become human beings later on. We grow and change, but that’s just the development of what we already are.

I won’t tell you what to believe, but I’ll tell you what I believe to be true, and that’s that we were created uniquely by God, which is pretty cool because that means that our “wiring” has already been created when we’re born. If you have kids (especially if you have more than one), you can attest to the fact that they are different from the get-go. I think about my friend Rachel’s two kiddos, and really, there was a big difference in them even during the two pregnancies. I’m not enough of an expert on that to go into any more detail, but I’m sure y’all have seen it for yourselves. So just think, God created you, not just your body, but your personality as well. He came up with the way you relate to the world around you, the ways you like to be loved, the ways you demonstrate love to others, the things that break your heart, the things that stir your soul.

My friend Carla is easily startled, and she told me once that her mother said that even when she was in the womb, when the creepy theme music of a crime drama TV show came on, she would wriggle around like crazy, making her poor mama very uncomfortable. And I don’t remember a time ever in my life that I didn’t love music. Maybe my mom can shed more light on that, but for as long as I can remember, it’s been my favorite thing.

I realize there are all kinds of scientific arguments you could make to explain these things, but I don’t think any of them negate the idea of a creator. In fact, I think they support it, but that is beside the point.

We’ve been created. We were born with the basics fully formed and only in need of development, yet we still allow ourselves to be re-created by things that are not our creator. We let the media tell us that our bodies were formed incorrectly and should be adjusted to adapt to society’s standard of beauty. We let our teachers tell us that if we don’t follow the right 5-paragraph formula, our way of communicating is wrong. We let boys tell us that if we were more like so-and-so, we’d be worthy of their adoration. We let a lack of curiosity in others create in us the sense that we’re not worth pursuing or being known. We let laziness in others tell us that we are too much (too fill-in-the-blank). We let men who don’t want to understand us tell us that we’re crazy. We let so many things tell us that we are in some way shameful.

But just like God asked Adam and Eve, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:11), he asks us, “Who told you that you were malformed/unacceptable/unworthy/not valuable/too much/crazy/shameful?” Why do we allow someone who is not our creator to tell us who we are? What do they know? And what gives them the right? Yes, Adam and Eve were naked, but Genesis 2:25 says they felt no shame about it. The shame was added later.

So what if you don’t look like Scarlett Johansson? It doesn’t matter. There’s no shame there. And say you’re really, really organized or boisterous or intense or tall or talkative or bold. Who told you those were bad things? I’ll tell you who: Jerks who were too lazy to find a way to use those things to benefit everyone, so they told you to be less of yourself to make things easier on them in that moment. And if you’re 30 years old and have never even held hands with a boy, it is not because you’re unlovable, unworthy, or in any way not completely special. Here’s who you are:

  • a unique creation of God
  • someone God knows and loves (yes, at the same time)
  • someone Jesus died to set free

Y’all, don’t let anyone or anything in the world re-create you to be anyone other than who God made you to be. You are already loved, and that’s enough.

 

Planning Ahead

Amaris‘s brain doesn’t always work. I don’t know if she needs more sleep or if she’s got some kind of vitamin deficiency or what, but sometimes she just ain’t all there. I can say these things about her because she knows it, and I’ve said it to her (though she probably doesn’t remember), and well, she’s just not ashamed. She is who she is, and we love her.

Well, this morning, I got a tweet from her that I should go look at Mary’s feed because the content of one of her tweets was a direct result of me and my awesomeness. So I went, and I looked, and I did not get it. Then, as I thought more about her most recent tweet, a tiny, vague and very hazy memory began to creep ever-so-slowly and sneakily into the very back corner of my mind. It said, in part, “[my husband] is singing along to Billy Joel, which is just awesome.” And I thought, Did I turn Karl on to Billy Joel? That feels kind of familiar.

So I asked Amaris, and she told me this WHOLE long story about how I told Karl that any man who likes music should have a basic appreciation for Billy Joel, and how the women in his life, and maybe even his future wife, would love it if he liked Billy Joel, and on and on and on.

Y’all, I have no recollection of this whatsoever. So I told Amaris that if we don’t have husbands when we’re old, we need to just move on in together so we can try and help each other remember to put our teeth in and wear clothes when we leave the house. I don’t even care if they match. (Well, I want my teeth to match my mouth, so I hope I don’t put hers in, but as far as my clothes go, I’ll still be so urban that it won’t matter.) Clearly our mental capacities are already failing us, so now is the time to prepare.

So if any of y’all want to get in on this, let me know. We can buy a big ol’ house somewhere and form our own old folks home. Surely somebody will have a kid who’s a doctor who’ll come over and check on us once a week. We’ll hire a college kid to do all our grocery shopping, and when he/she comes over with our rations, we’ll say things that are totally inappropriate and unexpected for old people. We’ll play games in the back yard, but we’ll cheat, of course. We’ll go on early evening walks through the neighborhood, smiling and waving at all the families out playing in their yards. We’ll sit out on our porch on Sunday afternoons and wave at passing cars. We’ll always have candy in our pockets to give to the kids at church. We’ll have surprisingly good Halloween decorations. We’ll dance as much of a jig as our hips will allow when Christmas carolers come by. We’ll drink wine on the porch at 10 in the morning just because we can get away with it ’cause we’re old. And when we wake up at 3 in the morning because we went to bed at 7 the previous evening, we’ll take the opportunity afforded to us by the cover of darkness to go skinny dipping in the community pool.

Won’t you join us?

Big Girl Pants

No, I’m not gaining weight. I’m talking about being a grown-up. In just a few weeks, I will have paid off my student loans and started saving for retirement. Did anyone’s jaw just drop to the floor? Because I’m pretty much still in disbelief myself. Finally, finally, I will have earned that Master’s degree both academically and financially. Then maybe I’ll hang the diploma on the wall and force everyone to admire it when they come over. I will regale them with stories of New York, my NYU classes, how I was so tired at one point that I got into the revolving door with a stranger by accident, how much my first apartment cost per month, how much my last apartment cost per month, and of course American Eagle Flagship Store #81.

So if anyone wants to come over one night, look at my diploma and share stories of school and the forever-long process of paying for it, let me know. We’ll get some pizza and cannolis just to make it New York-y.