Monday, June 23, 2008


Confession: I am slightly extremist.

I don't know why, but my personality, tastes, and tendencies have the habit of being...rather all or nothing, let's say. Obsessive compulsive? Not quite. Single minded to the point of distraction? Probably a better description.

I have always been this way. I am so easily impassioned, I will get completely immersed in an idea or a topic or a plan, and throw my entire being into it headfirst. There was one summer where my sister and I and our two neighbor girls decided to start a business: we were going to make paper clip jewelry. We knew that we would make millions, because, you know, everyone needs a little bit more junk in their house. Our plans dominated my thoughts and conversations for the next few days [I was nine -- a few days is an eternity when you are nine]. Pricing lists, expansion ideas, cost of supplies; I probably had an entire notebook covered in color pencil scribbles and notes. I seem to remember that we were going to lure in buyers with an innocent looking lemonade stand, and then thrust our ingenious little necklaces and bracelets on our unsuspecting buyers who, given my dazzling sales presentation, would beg for more.

Well, unfortunately my big break never materialized. My jewelry debut has yet to be seen, because I got bored with my little game and dropped it like a little league left fielder with ADD. I think that I replaced my paper clip obsession with an urgent need to know everything I could about Clara Barton and Florence Nightengale. In retrospect, I was a really weird kid.

I have yet to grow out of my hot and cold, on and off, obsessive tendencies, and once again it has begun to ebb its way into my mind. You see, I have a new addiction, a dangerous little disaster waiting to happen. I have met the mistress of my procrastination, and her name is Mah Jongg.

That's right, this seemingly harmless ancient Chinese tile game is taking over. It's one of those things where you sit down to play one game, and then three hours later you're like, "Wtf. I'm dumb." On one hand, it's really nice at the office -- believe it or not, Facebook can get old, so it's nice to have this backup. On the other hand, I'm letting calls go to voicemail, I can't remember what else Heath asked me to do, and my eyeballs feel as if they are going to fall out of my head for lack of blinking. If I'm completely honest with you, this post has taken a long time to write, because I impulsively and without thinking click to the other tab that is open on my browser...the Mah Jongg tab...

I'm getting really good, too. I can finish an entire game in less than six minutes which, depending on who you ask, may or may not be pathetic. [Okay, since I wrote that last sentence, I have played three games. This is out of control].

It's not like this little game is consuming my life or anything...unless there is a computer in front of me. And the good news is that I have learned from my paper clip past, and I know that this phase is going to pass. In a year or so, after a long hiatus, I'll stumble upon some form of Mah Jongg and I will regress back into my obsession for an hour, then shudder and shake it off. This isn't a big deal; it's just a new way to melt my brain while I should be productive.

You know, I'm really starting to think that I'm not created for a 9-5. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go think about checking the voicemails while I squeeze a few more games in the last thirty minutes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What Came Out Today.

To be a writer is to be fickle and tempestuous by nature. For example, I can never decide how I like to write -- is it better, more natural for me to write in a lighthearted style? Go for a laugh from my readers? That's generally what comes out on a first draft, and I will love it...until I read it 57 times. At that point, I hate my writing; I can see nothing but silly cliches and cheap jokes, and I feel like it sounds like I'm trying too hard.

So I mix it up. I love deep, artistic writing, full of metaphors that are so deliciously unusual and innovative that I get goosebumps. There is something about that rich yet sparse, deep yet tangible, beautiful, raw writing that I want for myself. I have had classmates who vomited this sort of work onto their pages instinctively; Kevin and Nora [among others] were so despicably good at this that I tried to mimic their art like a six-year-old with fingerpaint. The results were clumsy, choppy, but workable. I molded those pieces like clay, whispered sweet nothings onto my glowing computer screen, begged them to become something that I could be proud of. Sometimes they were stubborn, but other times they yielded to my coaxing, and finally I would have a piece, a narrative, a story, that I felt was just hollow enough, just dark enough to be considered good. I would love this piece too....until I heard another student's funny piece. Suddenly, the work that I agonized over, obsessed about, seemed pretentious, heavy, and ridiculous. Ruing the very day that I accepted the fact that I was a writer, I open a new Word document, intent on making something beautiful.

That's just it though -- I am a writer. I can't help it! I can be anywhere, doing anything, and I will get the urge to write. I scribble the phrases and descriptions that pop into my head while I am driving onto the back of receipts while I am am stopped at red lights. During the day I sit at my desk in this office, this building that bustles with inefficiency, and when my blog is up or a Word document is open, I am in my own little world. The phone startles me, tenants take me by surprise, and time seems to stand still. I get energy and passion from writing. This is what God created me to do.

Someone recently asked me how I knew that I wanted to be a writer, how I knew that this is what I wanted for my life. I can't explain it, really. It's like being in love...I've never been in love, but from what I am told from a plethora of extremely different people, you just know when you are truly, madly, deeply, and passionately in love with someone. I used to try to fit a different mold when it came to my occupational dreams: I was going to be an engineer. Women in engineering are needed, I was told. You will win scholarships, choice jobs, and meet so many men in college, I was told. Besides, I went to KAMSC -- my choices were limited to engineering, science, or medicine. Law, perhaps, would be acceptable as well. Or computer programming. But those were the only viable options for a fulfilling and lucrative career.

God had a different plan. I took the math classes, I went to the engineering camp, I interviewed the professionals, and I could not get excited about it. My British Literature class at Gull Lake, on the other hand, was a different story. In the blink of an eye, I found my passion again, and over the course of that junior year, I found my calling as well. My favorite part of the story is that I was writing all along, I just didn't realize it. Journals, letters, stories... I have been writing my entire life. My mom pointed that out to me once. "I knew you were never going to be an engineer," she said. "You've been reading and writing since you were five."

So this eternal frustration? This nagging feeling that my writing is sub-par? The deep respect/envy for the work of my peers? The very real and very terrifying reality of writer's block? It's all in a day's work. And in the end, it's all going to be worth it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Confessions of a Self-Proclaimed Literature Nerd

Kelsey and I have a tradition. Neither of us really remember how it started, but every year on the last day of school, we would end up at her house, jumping on the trampoline and chanting: "We don't have school tomorrow [bounce] or the next day [bounce] or the next day [bounce] or the next day [bounce] or the next day [bounce] or the next day [bounce ]or the next day [bounce]...." and on and on we went, until her poor mother came outside to shove Minute Maid Italian Ice popsicles in our mouths, probably for the express purpose of shutting us up.

We were SO excited to be out of school. The summer stretched before us lazily, full of long, boring days, camps, swimming lessons, Cedar Point trips that didn't yet require days off of work, and those random little adventures that always seemed so epic when we were young. The two of us would lie on that trampoline, discussing the endless possibilities that were ahead of us now that we had been unfettered from that awful institution of education.

Well I have a confession to make: I never felt fettered. I mean, that's not completely true -- everyone feels tied down and overwhelmed and sick of school at times, myself included. But the majority of the time, I loved being in school. I loved my teachers, I loved being easily successful [it was seventh grade...not exactly rocket science], I loved my friends, I loved everything! The initial break was like drinking your first cherry limeade. It was so delicious, so refreshing, so wonderful, and you felt like you wanted it to just go on and on and on and on, like mine and Kelsey's trampoline chant. After a while, though, the realization hits: summer days are all alike; they are stagnant, hazy, unchanging...HOT. There is no change in the air, no electricity. Past the fourth of July, I secretly and guiltily began to look forward to the fall.

School fever struck early this year. Very early. I am sitting at my desk here at the real estate office, scrupulously avoiding the petty, paper-pushing tasks that are piling up, and studying my class schedule. I can't lie, I am nearly giddy in excitement. Sociology, psychology, linguistics, Russian, and best of all, my literature and writing courses -- I cannot wait to get back to school!

My Mimi recently told me that she has never seen me happier than I have been since I started school. She was talking with one of her friends and she said that I was going to be in school for the next fifty years because that is what I love. Now, regardless of the fact that I have always enjoyed it, I have never seen myself as a lover of knowledge, but that is exactly what I am. I love learning; I love to know things. Bookstores taunt me, because such richness and depth and mystery lies upon those sacred shelves, but also because of the overwhelming amount -- even if I were able to devote my life to nothing but literature [and the thought has crossed my mind more than once] I would never be able to read everything! And if I could, there would be new books published that I would have to skip, and after a while everything would just run together. You see the dire predicament in which I find myself.

What is it that makes a person educated? I would say that my breadth on English is above average, but my scientific education has been woefully undermined [despite...or more probably, because of KAMSC]. I have the corner on pop culture, a working understanding about political issues, but international affairs? Sports? Nothing.

I think that the love of knowledge, like the love of money, is an insatiable thirst, an unending pursuit: one can never get enough. When does a person stop learning? Is their day to day existence fulfilling at that point? To not learn anything requires more work than learning, sort of like the way I think that believing in evolution takes a lot more faith than believing in creationism. It just doesn't make sense.

Great. Now that I have written this, my passions are all stirred up, and all I want to do is go curl up with one of the multitude of books on my [self-sanctioned] summer reading list. Of course, I have to go to the restaurant and schmooze for the next six hours....but maybe after. Yes, most certainly after.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bunco Mania

I was inducted into a very serious social circle on Monday night: my mother's Bunco league.

When Mom told me that they needed a substitute, I thought she was kidding. A substitute? For Bunco? For those of you who do not know, Bunco is basically remedial Yahtzee; there are four women at a table [two per team], you roll three die and count how many of a certain number you get. There are three tables that you alternate between, and the first team at the head table to get 21 wins. At that point, the teams with the highest score move up, the losers stay where they are. Bunco is a Yahtzee with the number that you're rolling for, and when you get it, you are forced to scream "BUNCO!!" and they hand you an ugly stuffed bear to hold onto until the next scream. The person with the most Buncos at the end of the night wins the best prize. See? Church lady fun.

This monthly event floats around the different homes of the group members, and on Monday night it was Julie's turn. I got home from work, only to turn around again to pick up the Chinese takeout that Mom had ordered for her "Bunco ladies." When I got back, the kitchen was swarming with women, pecking and milling about like hens around grain. And these are not just any women, mind you. Oh no. You see, this little Bunco situation draws from a very specific crowd -- namely all of my best friends' mothers.

That's right. They think that they can trick us. They think that we don't know. All I can say to that is puh-lease. Was it coincidence that these mothers had all of the dirt on our lives all the time?? Was it a coincidence that they all knew who was dating who, who was arguing with who, which teachers were being ridiculous to which students, and that this source of knowledge and power seemed to be recharged once a month?? I think NOT.

I felt like I was behind enemy lines on Monday night, and I kind think that I was. Not that my mother or my friends' mothers are enemies -- they're fabulous, I love them. I loved sitting at those tables, listening, talking, schmoozing; hanging out with adults has always been one of my favorite things. No, these women are not my enemies, but they are certainly a force to be reconciled. One of them told me [only half-jokingly] that Bunco originated as a drinking game, because it has the tendency to be quite dull. Now, these women being good, Christian women, they would never dream of Bunco-ing over cocktails [sarcasm? Possibly]. Besides, they found a better alternative.

Earlier I referred to this monthly gathering as a "league." It is far more than that. It is a gossip chain, a portal of information. I was shocked at how quickly they opened up in front of me, included me, probed me for details. One of them, notorious for having the good dirt, said something to the effect of, "Oh, we have to swear Carly to secrecy!! What is said at Bunco night must not leave Bunco night!!" Immediately I was doused in maternal culture, in the process of swapping knowledge, and bragging about children without making it seem prideful.

Having been to the other side and back, let me warn you: Bunco is not to be taken lightly. While some may see this game as a frivolous little escape from annoying kids and stressful households, I know the truth. This sacred sisterhood holds a mysterious power, one that cannot be explained via blog or word of mouth...oh no, one must experience it to believe it. Now that I have gotten a preview of what my life may look like in thirty or so years, I pity my future children [even more than previously] and their friends, because I have learned from the best.

Besides, what's not to love about Bunco? I won the most fabulous little table for my apartment and got "the mom's point of view" on many of my friends' situations....but don't worry, guys. I don't crack under pressure. We have our own sister/brotherhood to maintain.

This whole thing must be a sign from God that I'm supposed to be a spy after all. Good thing I'm taking Russian this fall!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This is the Truth.

I am not who you think I am. You see me as Carly. I am your friends' daughter, sister to three lovely siblings. I am a student, a smart young woman with a passion for words and language. I am involved in church and ministry, a hard worker, a shameless flirt, a born performer, and a reckless pursuant of fun. You see Carly as I want you to see her.

Inside, there is more going on than you might think possible. My thoughts, my hopes, my dreams, my beliefs – could you ever begin to imagine? I doubt it. I sit with you at the table, I roll the dice and play games with you, and you think that you know me. You think that I have things sorted, that God is going to do great things with me. On one hand, you are right. But you have no idea what I have come through or the things that I have experienced on the way.

I do not write to defy: I write to inform, explain. Those who have received much grace know the value of it – I write to illuminate the precious worth of the grace my Savior gave to me. In order to do that, I have some serious spilling to do. So here goes.

I have lived a charmed existence, yes, however it has been fraught with pain and stupidity on my part. I repeatedly screw up and fail, over and over and over again, and always in the same mucky mire. My freshman year of college was both the most wonderful, blessed and the most hellish, tumultuous year of my life. I talk about passion, love, faith, and hope, but frequently I feel like I have none of the above. I want nothing more than for my walk with Christ to consume me like the fire that I have heard about for my entire life, but I let Satan stand a few feet away with a hose, just in case things get too intense. I am more liberal than one might think, more hippie-esque than one might assume, less naïve than my mother would hope. I am impulsive, imperfect, irregular, and irritable, both free-thinking and uncreative, clumsily artistic. I am a walking onomatopoeia, an explosive anomaly, a firework waiting to paint the night sky.

My name is Carly. I define myself through my God, my family, my passion, my writing. I suck, but I serve someone Who is Love, and through Him, I get to find a place in this life that is a little bit more glittery. I am Carly.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Vitamin C

I will admit it: I have a theme song.

This is not to be confused with theme music; believe it or not, I don't have a running score to my daily existence [at least, not that anyone else can hear...]. I do, however, have a theme song, a song that captures my mindset for the time being, and I am not the only one.

Graduation season as a whole has adopted a theme song apparently. Every year, a new sentimental little number tries to oust it, but no, there it remains, firmly cemented in everyone's head from mid-May until the therapy treatments prove effective enough to help victims push past the pain.

You guessed it: I'm talking about Vitamin C.

First of all -- what?? What is that name?? Vitamin C? When I first saw the music video on the Disney channel in middle school I thought that it was because she had orange-ish hair. Follow me here: I saw orange-ish hair, thought CarrotTop, knew there were vitamins in carrots [potentially vitamin C, for sure], and said, "Oooh, okay, that makes sense."

This girl really needs to fire her manager.

Anyway, this song has a way of embedding itself within the braincells of anyone close enough to even have an idea that it might be playing in a thirty mile radius. It is that potent. I went to my beautiful little sister's graduation last night, and that song was freaking in the air. Nobody had to say anything, we all knew what the other person was thinking, and then SOMEBODY had to break the tension by just singing the damn song, and of course that person was my annoying [yet incredible] little brother Taylor, and then it was my own personal Waterloo not to hum that tune that so ingeniously rips off poor, dead Pachelbel, and just like Napoleon I was defeated. For the rest of the night, all I could say was "As we go on we remember..." Consequently, is Vitamin C singing or rapping? Opinions and/or thoughts would be appreciated...

Right, so I have gone through the past day and a half with this song stuck in my head, and it is making me think [I'm sorry...I can't help myself]. High school was far from my favorite time of life. I was ready to graduate halfway through sophomore year. I think that I have literally been looking forward to college since I was in third grade, and once I finally arrived this year, I knew I was right -- I was made for college. I love it. Still, there is something about graduation season that has always made me reflective, emotional.

This song actually makes me kind of sad that I rushed through high school. It's ridiculous that this obnoxious, iconic little ballad hits me so profoundly, but it really does. As much as I hate how cliched it has become, the message rings true [part of it at least...after all, I have already lost contact with all but a handful of my graduating class, so the "Friends Forever" part might be a bit of a stretch]. Graduation is the end, but like all ends, it marks a new beginning. I am a firm believer in Dr. Seuss when he said, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

I may have disliked high school. Nothing in the world would be incentive enough for me to repeat those four years. Still, there were some moments, some flickering snapshots of my life during which I knew that I loved where I was that very second. I guess those memories make everything worth it.

Still, I am so over this song [and is it called "Graduation" or "Friends Forever"?? This artist is DISTURBED!!]. The good news is, once I wrench it out of my mind, I will never hear it again...until next May...because after all, when else is this song EVER played??

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On Having a Second Job.

I remember when I worked at a commercial grocery store -- you know the kind. You cannot buy just a regular container of mustard, you need to get a whole gallon. Cheese is sold in pounds rather than ounces and no, ma'am, I'm sorry, but you have to purchase all six and a half dozen eggs in that case. Right. You get it.

I got that job when I was seventeen, and it was such a step up from the janky, ghetto movie theater that I had worked at for the two years preceding the jump to the lovely land of cashiering. Don't get me wrong, I loved the theater too...for the first three months at least. That isn't the point though -- I'm sure I have a few blogs within me about that first job.

Anyway, the grocery store seemed incredible -- huge, shiny, and corporate, it was miles away from the family owned and operated movie theater. I was suddenly the youngest person employed, save for one of my best friends, Kelsey, who is five days younger than me. She and I were the Minors, the Untouchables, the High Schoolers. Glamorous, yes? Not really. There were probably less than twenty people who worked at this particular location; three of them were older women, mothers and wives, four of us were young women ranging from 17 to 23 or so [our names were Kelsey, Kellie, Kristen, and Carly. How obnoxious is that?], and then there were probably twelve guys between the ages of 19 and 24 who worked there. Those of you who know me at all can guess what I loved most about this wonderful little store -- I was surrounded by fun boys. My favorite.

Again, I am digressing. As a seventeen-year-old high school junior, my primary reason for having a job was frivolous: I needed spending money. Yes, I paid for some of my gas at that point, but it's not like I had bills or needs. I only had wants. Since 20 to a maximum of 30 hours a week at this grocery store covered magazines, make-up, jewelry, and going out with my friends, it was more than enough for me. It is understandable then, why I could not grasp how some of my co-workers held two jobs.

I could not begin to understand why these people wanted two jobs. I could not begin to understand how they handled the nightmare of scheduling conflicts. I could not begin to imagine the sheer hours they put in. Now, it's not like the grocery store was some sort of slave barge, because that hardly describes it. I spent many blissful hours sitting on squeaky blue carts in the back room talking to my co-workers, and just as many hidden away in the coolers "sampling" the cheesecake that was scheduled for demo. Some nights we were so slow, I reclined in shopping carts as if I were Cleopatra and I begged my favorite manager Guy to push me around the store. He let Kelsey and I climb on top of the freezer once and hide behind the huge boxes that were stored up there, so that we could scare one of the stockers by throwing packages of napkins at him after we closed. We worked hard, but we knew how to avoid our work just as well as we knew how to sell our products. It was a good balance.

Fast forward two years and here I am, frittering my time away at a desk and computer, only to rush out the door early to get to the private, invitation-only opening of the new restaurant at which I am now employed. Today will easily be the first of many twelve-hour days this summer, which is an overwhelming thought to say the least. I mean, I suppose I have been planning on it; my outline of the summer was "Work a lot, read a lot, get a tan." I have been able to do all of those things so far [although my tan is compliments of...modern technology, let's say....]. So far so good? I cannot decide.

I'm all about working hard and then playing hard. This crazy schedule has plenty of positive aspects to it: I'm learning about what a real work ethic is, I'm getting great experience for later employment through college, I'm making some decent money, and I'm out of the house [which has been a lot better lately, but I still prefer to keep a little cushion of absence between my family and me]. More than just that, though, it makes the time I have to myself more sweet, and the time I get to spend with my friends even sweeter still. I am learning the value of more than just money, but also of time.

So I am sorry that I cannot hang out tonight. I am sorry that this summer is so vastly different than the last few, that we are all growing up, getting more realistic jobs with longer hours. I'm sorry that we are all spread out like never before, that my friends are all in Nashville or Chicago or Allendale or Grand Rapids or London, and you who are here are festering away at your own jobs. On one hand, it makes me really sad, and it makes these countless hours feel empty. On the other hand, though, it's kind of cool. We are adults now. We're growing up, developing our goals and dreams, pursuing the lives that we want.

Working two jobs is no one's idea of fun, however, it is empowering. I feel like I am at the edge of an enormous pool, and I have to take a huge breath and dive in. So here I go, diving into the waters of adulthood. Hold your breath!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

In Lieau of a Text...

Taylor, I was about to text you this morning...but you don't have a phone. So basically, I love you and I hope you have an awesome day!!

And those ducks scratched me last night, and I don't appreciate it. Clearly, this is your fault.

Love you!!