To all the girls rushing this week.

This is my third August on Mizzou’s campus as an employee, but my first one working near Greek town. And when I say “near” Greek town, I’m practically in it. I remember during Stop day last year I could hear three different songs blaring from three different frat parties. Not exactly a welcome sound in my office, but it comes with the territory.

Fast forward to August, and the trap music (for now) has been replaced with air horns followed by indistinct female voices chanting for a new group of rushing girls. (I’m looking at you, KKG. Y’all are LOUD and PROUD.) Yesterday I saw probably 50 girls, all donning the same red Mizzou PHA T-shirt walking to their next house. They looked SO YOUNG, and I remembered that when I started college, I had just turned 18 less than two months prior. I had to admire the efforts most of them had gone to to stand out even while wearing the same shirt. They had the cutest shoes, skirts, shorts, and accessories.

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These are my best college gals. 1/4 of us were Greek.

I did not rush as a freshman at Mizzou (or ever), but seeing those matching T-shirts immediately took me back to the lounge in Hatch hall, where we’d be hanging out when the rush activities were over for the day, and all the girls on our floor who were rushing practically fell out of the elevators – hot, sweaty, physically and emotionally drained, and chatting about which houses they liked.

Something about seeing those girls yesterday made me feel so motherly toward them. I just remembered how frightening and awkward those first few weeks of college were. There was so much new going on, and we couldn’t and didn’t process it all until months or even years later.

So, if I could give them each some advice (that they probably wouldn’t even want, because, HELLO, I didn’t even go greek), this is what it would be:

This week will not make or break your college experience.

If you’re thinking “I NEED to get chosen by DG because my mom was a DG, and it’s a top tier house, and these girls will be my sisters! And in my wedding! And friends with me for the rest of my life and certainly these next four years!” – just take a deep breath. Some of those things might be true and others won’t. I know plenty of girls that loved every second of being in their sorority and wouldn’t trade it, some who liked it fine, but not enough to keep paying dues so they dropped, and others who liked it, but had lots of friends who weren’t in their house. All are fine. Your college years will be what YOU make of them – don’t let too much ride on your Greek experience. It’s different for everyone. Having the highest expectations and putting a ton of pressure on the randomness of this week is only setting yourself up for some disappointment. Perspective is good. This week is not everything.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re buying your friends.

Although I never said it out loud to anyone who was Greek (because I have basic social skills), there was a part of me that used to feel that way. I think it stemmed from the fact that my personality, especially during college, felt FOMO in really severe ways. I wanted to experience everything fun that was available to me. I didn’t rush because I knew it was expensive, and I already had enough guilt about how much my parents were paying for out-of-state tuition. So I repeated that cliche line to myself to make myself feel better about missing out. Reader, I was jealous. I have seen sororities turn girls into leaders in four years. Sororities encourage their members to keep up with their studies, exercise their craft-making muscles, and build life-long friendships. They can open up doors for you professionally, and provide a built-in STRONG community. So, if anyone says that to you, don’t listen to ’em. They’re just jealous. Chances are that you’ll have a fabulous time, make a ton of friends, and won’t have to worry about finding off campus housing when you’re required to live in the house (which, trust me, is a kind of a nightmare).

Look outside your sisters for some friends, too.

It is so great that you’ve just found a ton of new sister-friends who are similar to you in lots of ways. You will need them when school and boys and life get hard. There’s nothing wrong with like-minded community. But you know what’s also great? Being friends with people who are different than you, too. College is a time when you’ll be surrounded by people from all over the country and the world who don’t look like you, dress like you, talk like you, or think like you. This is, in fact, is a true gift. It would be a shame if you didn’t take advantage of it. I am 100 percent more cultured, open-minded, empathetic, and well-rounded because of the people who I got close with in college who challenged my preconceived notions about what life is like for everyone. This is not to say that your sorority sisters can’t do this for you also, they probably will in some capacity, but when house drama is at an all-time high and you think you’ll explode if you have to talk about it with one of your sisters for one second longer, you’ll be grateful for your friends you can escape to who literally could not care less.

Your worth is not defined by what house does or doesn’t pick you.

I know you know this. I know it probably doesn’t need to be said. But I also know that this week has probably been TOUGH and draining, and your perspective might be a bit off. So I’ll say it again: Your worth is not defined by whatever happens on bid day. You are beautiful, loved, and precious exactly as you are. If you didn’t get your number one choice, it’s NOT because you’re not smart enough or pretty enough or didn’t wear the right outfit, a lot of this is just chance. You just didn’t click with the girls who happened to chat with you (*spoiler alert*: Even when you are part of a sisterhood, you will NOT automatically click with every person in your sorority.). And if you DO get picked by your number one choice in a “top tier” house – congratulations! But this is just the beginning. Try not to have an inflated sense of self-importance, and remember that every part of your sorority experience for the next four years will not be all roses.

Enjoy it and record it. And not just on instagram.

These next four years are going to be some of the most fun and stressful times of your life. I am so happy for you, and a tiny bit jealous. The world is literally your oyster in ways that it’s not as much for me anymore. So take some time to take it all in. It’s really happening, you’re away from home and all the pros and cons of that reality are about to start hitting you HARD.

I would have thought that the first week of college would be something that’s so seared in my memory that it would be hard for me to forget, but this isn’t really the case.

I have one visceral memory of my parents driving away, trying to hold back tears. I was in the circle drive in front of Hatch hall. My room was all set up. I think I had about a week before classes started. I remember going back up to my room, making a sad meal of mini wheats in a coffee mug, and watching The Office on my laptop (I believe my roommate was out doing rush activities) and thinking “Well, what the hell do I do now?” I figured it out eventually, and the rest I guess is history. 

I don’t remember much else, and I wish I had written more down. Keep a diary of everything you’re doing and thinking and feeling. It’ll help you stay grateful, it’ll help you process what all you’re going through, and your future self with thank you when you’re old and gray like me and trying to remember it all.

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I read some, and you can, too.

I’ve been on a slight reading kick lately** and I’ve thought about why, exactly, I’ve had some success actually starting and finishing (and not just listening) to some really great books.

**Note: Other people with more responsibilities than me (stressful jobs! kids!) read way more than I do. Not for one second do I think I am some prolific reader.

So here are a few tips I’ve found that really help me get in a reading groove and stay there:

Get a library card.

One tip you hear over and over again from capital-R Readers is: “Don’t be afraid to walk away from a book you just can’t get into.” This has always been tough for me, so I’d like to amend this tip slightly with this one: Get a library card.

I am well-versed in the romantic Saturday ritual of having one too many bloody marys at brunch and then wandering into the local bookstore next door. Next thing I know, I’m falling head-over-heels in love with some random hardback fiction novel with the most deliciously trendy cover design without so much as reading the front blurb. Twenty-six dollars later, when the alcohol has worn off, I try reading it, and it’s a struggle to get to page 30 — I realize I’ve made a huge mistake, Arrested Development style.

It’s hard to put those books down for good because I’ve invested in them. And so I try to slog through it, or worse, just don’t pick it back up for months at a time. Reading another book in the meantime feels like betrayal, so I don’t.

This is where the library card has been clutch for me.

Bad book? No problem. Return it. Get another. Get another FIVE if you wish. All for free.

The other great thing about the library is the pressure to finish. That three-week window is like a challenge that should be pretty doable for most books. And the most popular books that have holds on them, you can’t renew. For some reason, when it’s finally my turn to read a book that I’ve had on hold for weeks, and I know there are others not-so-patiently waiting after me, something about it feels more special. I’m making someone else wait, so I better really be reading this and enjoying it and giving it to the next person in a timely fashion.

(I never have this sort of benevolence toward random strangers in other aspects of my life. But READERS, man. There’s a community there.)

Make your reading conditions ideal.

Some people get in bed at 9 p.m. for a solid hour of reading each night before bed. More power to them. Me? I struggle to get in bed before 10 p.m., and I get about two pages in before needing to turn out the light. Instead, I sneak about 20-30 minutes on a campus bench during the work day lunch. Weekend mornings with coffee are a given. I love reading outside, and my dude considers it time spent together if I’m outside reading while he’s tinkering with something in the garage or mowing the lawn.

Be that cool person reading at a bar before your happy hour people show up. And I say cool because I know I’m always jealous of those people – aren’t you?

Take yourself out on a date with a book. Leave your phone in your car. Make it a treat, but think of it as a productive treat. Reading is good for your brain!

Track your progress.

Goodreads is a fantastic app/website for keeping track of the books you’ve read, when you’ve read them, what you thought about them, as well as the ones you want to read. You can set a goal of how many books to read for the year, and every time I finish one and see my progress bar move up a little bit more to complete, it’s satisfying. It’s nice to look back since January and see what types of books I’ve been leaning toward at a glance.

Find your book people.

Listen, book preferences and opinions are about as subjective as anything in this world. You can be my my best friend and soulmate, and I can feel “meh” about a book you loved and vice-versa. However, there are people who mostly have the same tastes in books as you do. Find them, and go off of their recs. The key to staying in a good reading flow is picking ones you’re probably gonna like. No more half-drunk decisions based on cover design, mmmkay?

Just start with one good, easy book.

Or, get back on track with one easy book. Sometimes I think I’m too high-brow to enjoy a “beach read.” Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time if I’m not learning something, or reading something very heavy from a perspective I’ve never been exposed to. There’s a necessary time and place for all of that. In fact, it’s a main reason why we should read, in my opinion. But, there’s nothing wrong with flying through a great romance, just to get one novel under your belt.

Modern Mrs. Darcy has so many lists of great books, categorized in EVERY way (short, beach-y, reminds you of your college days, etc.) you’re sure to find a good one that appeals to you from one of her lists.

My latest read definitely falls into this category. It’s fun, easy, fast, and a good story:

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Keep a running list of your Want To Reads

This is key for keeping up a good rhythm. As soon as you finish one, just refer to your To-Read list (curated on Goodreads!) so you don’t have to hem and haw over what perfect one you should read next. Just pick from those.

Another reason to get a library card: You can download books to your phone or other mobile device FOR FREE, as soon as you want to. All without having to make a trip to the library. The future is now.

Share your reads and what you thought about them.

I think sharing our reads is a really powerful thing.

When I see that someone I follow on instagram has read six books in a month? That’s inspiring, and makes me wonder how I could get in a few more pages tonight. When other people see what you’re reading and what you like, they’ll recommend similar things to you. When someone shares a beautiful image of their current read and their patio beer, I’m thinking of how I can make that happen in my near future, too.

It’s so fun to post what I’m reading next on instagram and get three responses of “Oh I loved that one, I hope you do, too!” Again – readers, man. We’re all in this together.

I think sharing encourages us all to read, which will give you more recs to weed through in the best way, you know? I think we’re all reading a little more cause we’re all sharing what we’re reading a little more. So pay it forward, and show off your reads to your friends!

One is better than none.

Don’t stress too much. Once you start reading a little more, if you’re like me, you see just how many books you can cram into a month, which will influence my picks. I’ll pick shorter, easier ones just to check it off the list, and avoid longer, harder, or more literary titles. This is dumb. Don’t be like me. Quality over quantity. We’re here to enrich our lives, learn some things, and relax a little, not check off all the boxes.

A supportive significant other helps.

My dude has bought and built furniture specifically for my books, never complains when I’m rattling on about the plot of my current read, doesn’t mind if I ignore him and read on long car trips, and has been known to bring me a glass of wine while I read. Ok, ok, now I’m just bragging. I think I’ll keep him.

 

Whew, that was longer than I planned. If you’re still here, I applaud and appreciate you. Reading is cool and fun! In the spirit of taking my own advice, soon I’ll review some of my latest reads here. And please let me know: What are you reading? What helps you read more? I’d love to know.

Tess and tangled necklaces

img_4009Tonight while mindlessly consuming the plethora of mediocre content that is instastories, I came across a photo of someone complaining about a tangled necklace.  And then I smiled, cause I thought of Tess.

I thought of Tess and the specific kind of intimacy that comes from living with someone for three and a half years. You see, sometime during those years when Tess and I lived together, I found out that she loves to untangle necklaces.

I’m an adult woman, and feel like therefore I should know how to travel with jewelry. I should take better care of my things, I should own one of those jewelry organizer thingies and actually use it. But I don’t, really. When I’m packing for a trip I haphazardly throw all my earrings, necklaces, and bracelets in something terribly uncouth like a ziploc bag. The result is always a comically large ball of tangled chains, beads, and wires that gives me anxiety whenever I try to gently tug at just one bit of one necklace to begin the untangling process.

I have a lot of shame around this habit, but Tess took it all away the day she saw me working on untangling one I happened to really want to wear (otherwise I wouldn’t have given it the time of day). She BEGGED me, with a gleeful, almost hungry look in her eyes to let her tackle it. I sheepishly handed it over to her and off to work she went.

A good 10 minutes later, the ball of materials were four separate necklaces. She was so satisfied. I was so embarrassed, but I had my jewelry back.

And thus began a ritual between us. I would go on a trip, and then upon coming home and unpacking, I’d knock on her bedroom door, still sheepish: “Will you help me with these?” And she was so excited every time.

Eventually, I started saving them for her. I wouldn’t even try to do them myself. I had no patience for it, and she loved it, so why bother? She never made me feel any kind of shame for letting them get so bad. She was happy I did. She liked doing it that much.

I moved away, and had a set of three or four that got horribly tangled during the move. I didn’t wear any of them at my new place for months, because I didn’t want to work on untangling them. I still didn’t have the patience, and it made me miss her. Even though I wasn’t planning on wearing them necessarily, when I finally saw her again on a friends trip, I said “I have a present for you,” and proudly presented her with the ball of necklaces.

“YES!” she exclaimed, and perched on the edge of the couch, prying out the necessary loops with her fingernails until they were all separate again. Our friends looked at us like we were nuts. “It’s a roommate thing,” we said.

There are so many reasons why Tess and I were wonderful roommates, but for some reason this story sticks out to me. She saw me at much, much lower points to be sure (I highly recommend going through your worst break ups with her by your side), but still, how lovely it is to not have to hide anything from the person you live with, even your tangled necklaces. How wonderful to have someone who enjoys doing the chore you hate for you. How sweet to not be shamed for it. How fun to complement each other in that small, weird way.

Living alone has some perks of course, but there’s no one I’m slowly learning more about now except for myself.

27 before 28

“Oh tie up your boat, take off your coat, and take a look around. Everything is alright now. Cause the sky has finally opened.”

If you know me at all, you know I’ve been obsessed with Kacey Musgraves’ latest album, Golden Hour, that came out this spring. I have a different favorite song every week, and I’m still getting something new out of some songs. When I first heard “Rainbow” and really processed it, I couldn’t listen to it without full-on crying. It reminds me of everyone I’ve known who has struggled with depression and for whatever reason struggle to see the beauty around them.

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But then the other day I heard it while I was driving around and I felt like those words up there applied to me, too. I sobbed in my car when I thought about how happy I am now vs. how unhappy I was not too long ago. Over the past year and handful of months, I’ve felt washes of gratefulness for the way my life has gone. Whenever I look around and realize that I knew none of the people sitting at my happy hour table a year ago, or when I have a particularly good day at work, or when I’ve spent an entire weekend outside, or when a super eclectic group of people all show up for my birthday happy hour and get along beautifully. When I stop within these moments and think about how happy I am, it feels like the words in that song. It feels like I’m taking my coat off, and noticing just how calm everything is now that the storm is over.

That probably sounds dramatic, even to people who are aware of the terrible relationship I was in before I left, but I had no idea how much that was affecting me until now, when I’ve had the gift of time and space and perspective. I feel so much lighter now. The fog has lifted. I sleep so much better. The sky has finally opened.

Birthdays for me lately are another chance to reflect, so I’ve been even more existential these past couple of weeks as I think about all that 26 was and preparing to have an amazing 27th year.

26 was a year of “should I stay or should I go,” in so many aspects.

Should I stay at Columbia’s “mega” church, where I can participate as much or as little as I feel like, or should I dive into this new church plant, where everyone is needed to help serve? Do I like my job enough to stay? Or should I try something different? Do I want to buy this house? Or keep saving money and wait for something better? Is this relationship right?

These are the things I navigated this year, and at times I felt like I couldn’t go wrong with any option. It’s a great feeling. I know I’ve written this here before, but a year later it’s still true: I am so happy here in Columbia. I have never felt more myself or more like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. After a few years of anxiously bumbling around, I’ll take this. I’ll be grateful for this feeling every day.

The things I want to do before 28:

  1. Buy a house?
  2. Visit New York City
  3. Still haven’t eaten at CC’s City Broiler here in Columbia
  4. Go on a ski trip
  5. Paint something
  6. Write a poem or a song
  7. Make a friend
  8. Spend a significant amount of time on creative writing projects. See them through.
  9. Host a Friendsgiving
  10. Go backpacking
  11. Pay off my car
  12. Fill up a journal
  13. Apply for grad school?
  14. Give generously
  15. Use a personal day at work to do absolutely nothing by myself
  16. Re-do a piece of furniture
  17. Be a good bridesmaid
  18. Get rejected from a few things (it means you’re trying)
  19. See all the Oscar best-picture nominees
  20. Learn to cook something rated harder than “easy” in any cookbook
  21. Go on a week-long road trip, preferably to some places I’ve never been
  22. Fall in love, maybe.
  23. Go on a solo overnight trip
  24. Buy a bike, ride it a lot.
  25. Write some letters and send them.
  26. Volunteer
  27. Write some articles or essays and pitch to magazines/online media spaces

Questions I wish were socially acceptable to ask on a first date

The older I get, the more I notice two things about myself:

1. I really love getting to know people. I want to know all of what makes them different from me. How has the sum of their experiences thus far shaped who they are? What does that tell me about humans in general? What do I have to learn from them? Conversations about these deeper things GIVE ME LIFE maybe a little more than most. You’re probably a good friend of mine if we’ve crossed paths and you, too, like contemplating the weirdness of humanity. And,

2. More and more I feel the pressure of our time being such a precious commodity. Something about seeing my grandparents get older makes me want to just cut to the chase with every person I meet. It seems a tragedy to me when a coworker changes jobs and I only got to know them on a very surface level (I’ve always been sentimental, and I guess aging only exacerbates that.)

So that means the poor saps who go on dates with me (thanks bumble) are under a lot of pressure. If it takes too long for us to get to conversations that would lead to the below topics, I get bored and want to move on. I wish I could ask them all of the below the first time we meet, but I also need to understand that not everyone is as open of a book as I am. And that’s okay. I try to remember that personal conversations are earned, not just freely given away. So, with that wordy intro, here are the questions I wish I could ask first dates (and really, everyone I care about). These are likely only the tip of my question iceberg:

  • What do you think God, or life, or whatever is teaching you lately?
  • What’s one regret you have from this week? This month? This year?
  • What’s your favorite song and why?
  • Why is your best friend your best friend?
  • What’s your relationship with each of your parents like? Do you think that shapes much of who you are in your day-to-day?
  • What do you want your life to look like in 10 years? Has that vision changed much in the last 5?
  • What are you most looking forward to?
  • What did you learn from your last relationship?
  • What’s your favorite book?
  • What have you learned about marriage by watching your parents’ (or lack thereof)?
  • What area of your life do you need to give yourself a break on?
  • What area of your life do you need to be harder on yourself on?
  • Do you ever feel guilty about the number of kids you want, considering our generation’s obligation to a little more social responsibility than the previous one?
  • How do you know when you’re in love/what does love mean to you?
  • What do you wish that we as a society would just chill out about?
  • How would you describe yourself using five “I’m the kind of person who ____________” statements?
  • What do you, specifically you, need in a partner? (Can’t say cookie-cutter things like loyalty, honesty, etc. or the date is over.)
  • What’s your philosophy around personal finances?
  • What is saving your life right now?
  • Do you think people are mostly good?
  • How much of your happiness can money buy?
  • What are you most scared of?
  • What’s one thing you wish you could change about yourself?
  • What are some things you like about yourself?

Books

BOOKS. I like them. I really hope you do, too. I ain’t really a “blanket statement” kinda gal, but here’s one for you: If everyone picked up a few more books throughout the year, I wholeheartedly believe the world would be a more empathetic, peaceful place. 

Even works of fiction can teach us about the human condition, place us in a person’s shoes that are so very different than ours, remind us of history, and teach us about topics we may never have breached otherwise. A few years after I started working, I remember feeling like I was literally getting dumber. It dawned on me that because I hadn’t been forced to read anything for school, I hadn’t read anything in forever. It probably also had to do with my ever-increasing phone addiction. Reading helps mitigate that in ways that are unmatched by consuming other media, even podcasts and long-form journalism.

I’m always hesitant when people ask me for book recommendations, because what people like varies greatly, so read the following reviews with this frame of reference: I am always looking for new authors who write beautiful, elegant prose. I really like historical fiction. Right now I’m gravitating toward books on spirituality and books written by people of color. Murder mysteries, fantasy, or dystopian stories don’t usually appeal to me unless they get at some larger, unique themes. And above all, I love a good coming-of-age story. Bring all of those to me.

Here are the books I’ve finished since April-ish:

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Although The Book Thief took me months to get through (it’s heartbreaking at times and has very, very short chapters, making it easy to put down), it was one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. If you like creative, gorgeous prose that will stick with you, this one’s for you. It’s World War II through the eyes of a child. 5/5 stars.

“She was the book thief without the words.

Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.”

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Trevor Noah, fairly new host of the Daily Show on Comedy Central, is someone I didn’t know much about before I bought his book on audible, but I’ve always loved his lilty South African accent, so when I read that he narrated Born A Crime, I thought – why not? I was hoping his book would talk a little more about his career and how he got started in comedy, but the book is exactly what it says it will be: Stories from a South African Childhood. It’s an incredible look into South African culture during and after apartheid. 3.5/5 stars.

“If you’re Native American and you pray to the wolves, you’re a savage. If you’re African and you pray to your ancestors, you’re a primitive. But when white people pray to a guy who turns water into wine, well, that’s just common sense.”

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I bought Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine after Reese Witherspoon endorsed it via instagram. I am equally ashamed of this as I am sure that Reese Witherspoon can do no wrong so of course that was all the prior research this book needed. WOWOWOWOWOW this book was good. At first you hate the narrator, Eleanor. She seems self-righteous and rude and she’s clearly lonely. Something’s off about her, too. The more you learn about her story, the more you root for her. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book almost brought me to tears. No easy feat these days. 4.5/5 stars.

“There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock. The threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday.

 

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Through several short stories, author Junot Diaz tells the story of Yunior, a serial cheater who immigrates to New Jersey from the Dominican as a boy. I devoured this book so quickly on the plane rides to and from Mexico City that I feel like the whole thing was a fever dream, and that’s a little bit how it reads. Each story of Yunior’s failed romances are so raw and quick and the subject matter – the complexities of love and relationships – is my absolute fave, so naturally I really liked this one. I’d do anything to be able to write as colloquially and as precise as Junot Diaz. He gets at the heart of the human condition in such a casual, pointed way. I’m not explaining it well, but just read it, ok? 4.5/5 stars

“That night you lay in bed, awake, and listened to the ambulances tear down our street. The heat of your face could have kept my room warm for days. I didn’t know how you stood the heat of yourself, of your breasts, of your face. I almost couldn’t touch you. Out of nowhere you said, I love you. For whatever it’s worth.”

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Written as a letter to the author’s son, this book confronts the topic of race in America as he perceives it stands today. This book made me feel uncomfortable in the most necessary way. It’s beautifully written. It should probably be required reading for high school seniors. It is brave and does not shy away from somewhat controversial assertions. I listened to it and should probably buy a paper edition, as I imagine it will end up being classified as classic literature. 4.5/5 stars.

“But all our phrasing—race relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacy—serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”

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Anne Lamott is basically my spirit animal. She’s funny, wise, and irreverent, but earnest where it counts. Is there a better combination? This is a quick read, and I could have highlighted a quote on every page. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said that “I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.” That’s what Lamott is getting at here. When we say Help, it’s acknowledging that we can’t do whatever “it” is by ourselves, which is sort of freeing in a way. Thanks helps us see the bright side in every situation and circumstance. And Wow acknowledges the miracles of life, both big and small. I love Anne, and I love this book. 4/5 stars.

“You’ve heard it said that when all else fails, follow instructions. So we breathe, try to slow down and pay attention, try to love and help God’s other children, and – hardest of all, at least to me – learn to love our depressing, hilarious, mostly decent selves. We get thirsty people water, read to the very young and old, and listen to the sad. We pick up litter and try to leave the world a slightly better place for our stay here. Those are the basic instructions, to which I can add only: Amen.”

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This one’s for the girls. Jen Hatmaker is the friend every non-pearl clutching Christian woman wished they had. I mean, I wish she was my friend, that’s for sure. Women of all ages and classifications (single, married, young, old, Christian, not, etc.) will be encouraged by her stories of failure – none of us have it all together, but we all have the moxie in us to come out OK on the other side. She talks parenting, writing, sibling relationships, marriage, and Jesus. This one was fun to listen to and brought me to tears in the very first chapter. Give it a listen, ladies. 4/5 stars.

That’s all for now. Got any recs for me based on the stuff above? Come at me. Also let me know if you’ve read any of these so we can discuss and bond over our great taste in literature. (Insert nerdy glasses emoji here).

Summer by the numbers

When you live in a college town, and even if you don’t, summer ends multiple times, in multiple ways. In Columbia, it’s when the students start crowding my downtown lunch spots again, when classes officially start, when Labor Day weekend is over, when the temperatures drop, when football starts.

For me, summer was probably over for good when I went on that third and final float trip a couple weekends ago and took off my swimsuit for the last time until 2018 (although I suppose I should never say never – CAN I GET A HOT TUB?!).

I’ve had so much fun during the past few months that I’m tempted to drag it out a few more weeks until the official end – Sept. 22 (HA. That’s today. I’ve been working on this post off and on for weeks now), but let’s be real. All the above have happened. People are burning their tongues trying to get their first sips of Pumpkin Spice Latte. It was 50 degrees one morning this week. My beloved season is over.

But that’s really OK. Many of you already know that I truly lived it up this summer, in every sense. Even though it was 4+ years ago now, I still have visceral, fond memories of Columbia in the summer from our college days, and, remembering that fun, I ran around this town like a feral child for two months trying to make the most of it. I spent every second I could outside. I said yes to absolutely everything. I drank too many beers. I never slept in. I rarely watched TV or took the time to just be an adult and do things like cook and clean. Why clean your apartment when you can watch your 6th sunset at Cooper’s Landing?

This first (maybe of many) summer(s) back in Columbia is one I don’t want to ever forget, so without further ado, a recap of sorts, with my summer by the numbers:

3 float trips

To me, floating the river is the quintessential Missouri summer bucket list item. Not because you can’t float the river elsewhere, but because it’s truly a way of life here. If you’re from MO, you figure out when, not if, you’ll go floating each summer. Plus, they just do it better. Rafts are greater than canoes, are greater than individual inner tubes. Trust, folks. I’ve been around the river bend a time or two. On each of these trips I gained a new friend or became closer with people I had already met. One of them we took our sleeping bags out into a clearing and stared at the stars for a few hours. Cute, right? Another one was GIRLS ONLY, no boys allowed, and we didn’t just survive without boys packing our coolers, we thrived. I’m always thankful for the weekends spent outside, so these were some of the best I’ve had since I moved here.

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1 county fair attended

There’s nothing more wholesome than a few small towns coming together for their annual county fair, is there? Lincoln County’s is a big deal (the fair queens are kind of treated like actual royalty), so I drove my butt 1.5 hours out there for just a night. On my way back, I shed actual tears when I thought about how lucky I am to be here, and how happy and full the past few months have been. I was also a little sad that I didn’t make the decision to come back sooner. Hormones are real is the only explanation I have for those tears.

4 books read

In the spirit of absolute transparency, I feel like I should tell you I listened to two of them, one I devoured almost entirely on the plane rides to and from Mexico City, and the other one I had been working through for months. In short, not a lot of actual reading happened this summer, but that’s OK.

The Book Thief – 5/5 stars
This is How You Lose Her – 4 stars
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – 5 stars
Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime – 4 stars

Several of you ask what I’m reading and if I liked it and why, so in another post I’ll review them more thoroughly for you.

1 bike ride

As a faithful follower of this blog (hey mom), you’ll remember that one of my 26 things to do before I turn 27 was to ride a bike to a new town. Mission accomplished with this year’s True/False Boondawdle ride. I bought a child’s helmet from Target the day of and off we went, 17 miles down the Katy Trail to Rocheport. If you’re not familiar, the Boondawdle is a fundraising event for Columbia’s True/False Film Festival. Participants dawdle down the trail, stopping at fun T/F themed stations along the way. (Our favorite was the station where you could ask an “advice machine” any question you want, and a custom typewritten answer would be given to you with the answer on it.) Once you arrive at Les Bourgeois winery in Rocheport, you’re given a delicious meal, and are among the first to see one of the films that will be at the following year’s festival. It was worth every penny. Can’t wait for next year.

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Side note: I do not recommend snap chatting while biking. I still have some mild scars to prove just how terrible of an idea that is.

2 new cities visited

First up was the Land of 1000 Lakes, or more specifically, Minneapolis. This was such a good weekend for me to reconnect with the OG high school peeps. The ones who know me best, the ones who relentlessly make fun of me. Minneapolis has sweet, midwestern people, a beautiful and clean downtown, the BEST restaurants, and a great outdoors scene. I like it there a lot. I probably wouldn’t like it in January, but that’s why I visited in July.

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Literally three weeks later, I visited Mexico City. This trip was somewhat spontaneous. I barely knew anything about the city the week before I got there. I’ve been so busy that I didn’t plan, I was just along for the ride. And can I say that while I’m a huge planner, sometimes having no expectations for a trip can make it that much better? I feel so lucky to have gone when I did because just this week the city was flattened by a major earthquake. As of this morning, more than 270 people are dead, many of whom were elementary-aged children trapped in their school. My heart is breaking for a city that I knew nothing about just a month ago. I can’t describe to you exactly why the people there just felt so warm. Mexicans are familial people, and we felt their hospitality at every turn. The care they put into their food presentation, their patience with my terrible Spanish, the smiles from strangers on the streets. I felt so safe in such a large city that I was like “I could live here.” And I think I could! To those of you who think I’m crazy, who think of Mexico as a run-down country, you’re wrong, like I was. Go see it for yourself.

 

Our air bnb flooded one night. But it was fine, it was all fine.

26 miles run

What’s that you say? Some people run this in mere hours? At one time? Good for them, I suppose, but to me that mostly sounds bad for you. My miles logged this summer were few and far between, but instead of beating myself up for being so inconsistent, I just relished the way each run made me feel at that very moment. This summer I ran for my sanity, not my vanity, for maybe the first time. When I started to feel excessively tired, anxious about things out of my control, and stressed, I knew 30-45 minutes on the trail would be the cure. Something about sweat pouring, breath tearing through my lungs makes me feel the most alive and helps keep stress and anxiety at bay. I get it, work out people. I really do.

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2 lake trips

Lake days are the best days, amirite? Make friends with someone who owns a boat. Bribe them to take it out. Your summer will be better for it. Also, dare to venture beyond the Lake of the Ozarks. THERE ARE OTHER LAKES IN THIS STATE. And they’re good ones, too. I promise.

1 job transition

It’s no secret that for various reasons, Mizzou is experiencing some tough times budget wise. Extension’s budget was cut along with everyone else’s, and some people lost their jobs. Luckily, I was not one of them. But in June, I was told that what I was hired to do (edit extension publications) would now be outsourced. My role has completely shifted and I’m doing things that frankly, I have no clue how to do. This is good for me, but it is not easy or fun a lot of the time. I feel stupid and feel like I’m asking stupid questions every day. While some people are perfectly comfortable with this, for me it’s mentally draining. I am looking forward to the time when I again am good at my job and comfortable in my role, but this week, this month, and maybe even this year are not those times.

0 houses bought

It’s not all gloom and doom, though! This is a good thing. I’ve kept my eye out on houses ever since I moved, and when I found out about all the chaos about Mizzou and my job (which I feel is never guaranteed), I just felt a wash of gratefulness that I hadn’t yet taken the plunge. If I had just dumped my life savings into a down payment on a house and then got laid off or was constantly worried I would want to find a new job soon, I’d be panicking. Insert cheesy line here about thanking God for unanswered prayers. It me.

1 total solar eclipse viewed

Y’all. There are no words for the experience that is being in the path of totality. I thought this whole thing was way overhyped, but it wasn’t. On the first day of classes, me and hundreds of my closest Mizzou friends gathered on the quad with our glasses and watched as the moon perfectly eclipsed the sun. Everything had a weird glow about it, the streetlights came on, the locusts started screaming like it was 7 p.m. It was real cool. I now understand why people become career totality chasers. Sometimes experiences that make us feel small are humbling and sobering — we’re so small and in control of so little, and likely still have only scratched the surface of all there is to know about the sophisticated design of our vast universe. But to me, it’s freeing. We’re just a speck of bones and blood on this earth for a blip of time. So let’s not take ourselves quite so seriously all the time, ok?

Please for the love of all that is holy do NOT listen to the audio on the below video.

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As I reread this post, I feel like it’s not doing justice to all the life I managed to cram into this summer. All the little nights spent with girlfriends with wine on patios or time spent holding a new person’s hand, or walks at Rock Bridge State Park aren’t significant in themselves, but they’re the little nights that make a life, and mine has been good good good. At least four of you have responded to a snapchat with “I feel like you’re having SO much fun,” or “You seem so happy in Missouri,” or other variations of the same sentiment, and it’s mostly true.

Even with all the turmoil at work and with the University, I’m glad I’m here. It feels right and good, but maybe not as permanent as I’ve previously assumed on my very best summer days. The older I get the more accurate it feels to not assume anything, to not hold onto anything very tightly. I shouldn’t assume I’ll still want to call Columbia home in five years or maybe even two.

And while that mystery is sort of frightening – I think a lot of 20 somethings, myself included, want to feel settled – it’s also sort of fun, too. The future is uncertain, but the world is always our oyster. Life is strange and meant to be enjoyed, and I don’t think anyone doubts that I enjoyed my summer this year.

As we move into the next few months, some things I’m looking forward to:

  • A real temperature drop at a normal fall time
  • Football. Even though Mizzou is already making that rough on us.
  • Mizzou basketball
  • Slowing down. Cooking more.
  • Warm coffee
  • All the weddings
  • Crying over the leaves changing. Because that’s just the sort of weirdo I am. It’s just so pretty here and seasons come and go so quickly, and the transition is beautiful and EMOTIONAL, okay?
  • Visiting home

If you’re still somehow reading this – thanks for sticking with me. I hope to see your face at some point this fall. Really, I mean it.