Friday, November 13, 2009

My Favorite Boy In the World

Yes, yes, I know. Don't start with me. I realize that it's been ten years since I've written, but I refuse to justify it. I'm not going to whimper about how busy I've been or any such nonsense -- you've heard it before. Besides, I don't feel like making excuses, quite frankly. So there.

Obviously, it must take a very, very special thing to break such an impressive hiatus from this beloved old blog of mine. Special indeed. Today [yes, boo boo, I'm counting it as today, because I haven't gone to sleep yet, ergo, it is STILL your birthday day. Trust me. I pulled an all nighter last year on my birthday, just to continue basking in the glory. I know what I'm talking about.] is my baby brother's birthday.

My baby brother isn't really a baby anymore; at seventeen, he's much taller and stronger than me, which puts a damper on our old days of forced dress up games. I left for college and when I came back, I found my baby brother to be a little man, full of testosterone and hormones and angst and a voice that originates somewhere around his knees. Where has my cute, baby-faced baby brother gone? Where is the little boy whose largest concern during childhood was his complete inability to make scones? Where did the little boy who needed to be physically dragged out of my bedroom every night disappear to? And when did I start to like this replacement version so much?

It is a gift to have a little brother four years younger than you; you start to come into your own [at varying levels] at about the same time. As Taylor was maturing into a teenager, I began the process of maturing into an adult. These times are strangely similar; everything is new and exciting and terrifying all at once. The stakes seem so high, the possibilities so endless. Taylor and I share our outlook, our passion, and our dreams in a way that few siblings can understand. Truly, I left for college and when I came home again for the first time, the annoying baby brother had been replaced with a lifelong best friend.

I think that is what I love so much about Taylor; we have so much in common. We often say that our parents had two kids, just the male and female version of each and Taylor is my counterpart. I've never met someone whose dreams honestly rival my own. I've never met someone with such an innate desire to see the world, to experience new things, to talk to different people, to play a foreign role in new situations, to make friends and flirt with everybody as a way of life. Taylor embodies all of these and more, and I love and respect his individuality more than I can say.

The thing is, Taylor is exactly who he is. He can't always understand it, necessarily, but he doesn't hide behind trends or subscribe to labels. If he wants to try something that is against the grain and unusual, he's not afraid to take a risk. I love that about him. I've come to expect it, actually. Taylor generally operates at a level that is beyond his years and his bold decisions attest to that fact, so when he actually acts his age, it always throws me. Taylor is not your average teenager... he is so, so much more than that.

Perhaps I am biased. Perhaps I am blinded. Perhaps everyone in the world who is so enamored with my brother is biased and blinded too... but I don't think that is the case. Taylor is an incredibly special man, one who will accomplish anything that he sets his mind to and do amazing things for God. He is loyal and fierce and protective, and the best is yet to come. Happy Birthday, boo boo bear. You are my favorite boy in the world... I would never ignore you for another. ;-)

xoxo.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Never Claimed to be Domestic...

Okay. Here's the thing. I come from a long line of amazing cooks. Mimi's food is amazing -- she could seriously hand me a plate with sliced cheese and pickles out of a jar on it, and for some reason, it's just better than any other sliced cheese or pickles that I could find anywhere else. I'm not even going to talk about her real cooking, because it will make me too hungry for it. My mother's food is equally legendary and it's not like I took it for granted growing up, but I certainly miss it a lot when I'm away at school. And Shelby? I mean, it's just ridiculous. Shelby just knows things about cooking, about how things work in a kitchen. Truly, it's a gift.

One that I clearly do not have, I might add.

Now, I've come a long way from my cookie melt down the summer before my senior year. I no longer burst into tears at the sight of a burnt mess and choke out my fears that my future children will need counseling, due to the fact that I cannot bake them the cookies that they so clearly desire, thereby ruining their childhoods and shunting them off to their perfect Aunt Shelby so that their baking needs can be met. Nearly four years have passed, and I am pleased to say that I am now capable of baking a batch of cookies and apple pie.

And it's not like I can't take care of myself at school; I can cook. Kind of. At least, I have improved a lot over the past year or two -- I made these meatloaf things last year that Rachael Ray published and they were delicious. I make excellent stir-fry and I am the queen of anything Mexican [although as some people so generously point out, anyone can chop vegetables into salsa]. I'm not quite at the point where Shelby actually lets me help in the kitchen, but I can fumble through a recipe pretty convincingly.

But it is time for me to take the next step. I sauté my food as if my life depends on it: I'm ready for the next challenge. Besides, come October every year, I am in a constant state of craving chilli and pot roast, and I have no way of making it for myself. When I told Mimi this, she did the only logical thing.

She bought me a crockpot and a cookbook.

The possibilities seemed endless. I had instant fantasies about myself coming home after a long, cold day on campus to the aromatic seduction of something hot and delicious and ready to eat. Plus, the way that Mimi talked about it, the crockpot seemed like a magical cauldron for stone soup -- all I had to do was throw things in it and walk away. Even I can do that, right?

I guess I should double check to make sure I'm throwing the right things in, though, because today I set out on a brand new adventure. I decided that, being a blustery fall day, I needed that chilli that I've been craving for weeks. Now, Jewels makes the best chilli in the world [and no, I am not falling prey to my superlative overdose at the moment... I am extremely serious]. I called her, got her recipe, did the grocery shopping, and woke up this morning craving a masterpiece of my own. When I went to brown the meat, however, I realized that I am the dumbest person in the world; I didn't get ground beef. I got something else that looked equally brainy and intestiney, but much less crumbly.

Here's my question: how can someone mess that up? I mean, who can’t differentiate between the stuff of hamburgers and tacos and… I don’t know, something else? I know it isn’t really that big of a deal; after a few frantic texts to my sister and mother, I dealt with the situation. It just meant that I chopped a little more than would have been otherwise necessary, which was fine. If nothing else, my problem solving skills have skyrocketed due to this new cooking situation. And in the end, my chilli? Oh my gosh, soooo good. My mother would have been proud. But still. It’s annoying to make such basic mistakes.

Oh well. As Julie says, she's been married twenty-five years -- she's supposed to know all of the things that I don't, and once I've been married for that long, maybe I'll have some more stuff figured out. I'm sure she's right, but that doesn't really comfort me about next week...see, I bought this pot roast... but I'm sure it will all be fine, as long as I warn the fire department in advance, right?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Best, Most Honest, Most Gut-Renching Post IN THE WORLD.

It has come to my attention that I may be a bit too generous with my use of superlatives.

Is this my cross to bear? Can I help my ever-burgeoning zest for life? Can I quell these hotsprings of enthusiasm that spring from the least bit of stimulus? [I don't know where those words are coming from, by the way...they were literally the first things that came to mind. Too much Fancy Nancy in one day, I think. Consequently, while I basically adore those books, I detest the word "fancy" in reference to things that are particularly nice. I.e., "This dress is so faaaaancy!" instead of "This dress is pretty and classy and perfect for the occasion," or, "This place is so faaaaancy!" instead of "Nice restaurant." I think it's the fact that people on What Not To Wear use it a lot in defense of their gross clothes and it annoys me, hence the newborn aversion. Right. Moving on.]

I feel like my random outbursts on things such as the word "fancy" and sudden bouts of [possibly] excessive zeal are somewhat definitive of me... I like the fact that I'm passionate about a lot of different things that can be called forth at a moment's notice. Still, I understand how a lot of what I say could contradict itself.

For example, I recently told my newest BEST FRIEND Rachael that she was my favorite person in the world. Jessie was walking with us and just laughed. "You say that to nearly everyone, Carly," she said.

Affronted, I gasped. "I do not!" I insisted.

"Yes, you do!" she said. Then she put on airs and started saying, "She is my favorite person. He is the most interesting person in the world. That is the craziest thing that has ever happened to me. Oh my gosh - I'm dying!"

In a fit of transcendence, I recognized my own catchphrases. I'm pretty sure that I stopped walking in order to better stare at Jess and Rach in disbelief, but that might just be my own dramatic reinterpretation of the event.

Also, a certain individual at work has taken to looking at me meaningfully every single time I use the word "phenomenal," which, as it turns out, is quite frequently. Add to that the lively and energetic impression of me pacing around a hallway that ANOTHER coworker did, and it leads me to one conclusion.

I have superlative issues.

There, I said it. Want more? I have a flair for the dramatics. [That one hurt a little bit.] Also, I tend to emphatically stress certain words when I'm speaking... and while we're on the topic, I might be slightly annoying in general, because of the breathless pace of my mannerisms when I'm excited.

I guess I should have figured out that I had issues when I told my mom about my day in a normal, chilled out manner and she just said, "What's wrong? Why are you sad? You're not gushing about how AWESOME your classes are and how IN LOVE you are with your friends... what is going on?"

In my mind, I know that not every offbeat, quirky, individualistic character I meet is the most interesting person ever. I know that I can only have one favorite person in the world [at a time, at least], and even then that it probably isn't prudent to share with the rest of the world. I have never had a revelation so extreme and amazing that I actually run the risk of dying, like I always claim, and I suppose Terry's fake pregnancy on Glee doesn't actually make her the WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD. I know that not every book I read can be the best book I've ever read and that not every professor can be all THAT much better than the one before.

Still, is it horrible to be so enamored with the world around me? I mean, I'm rarely bored. And I'm quite easily entertained. And I would rather be known as that weird girl who gets too excited about life than the muted, emotionless girl. Duh.

It's just that, now that I'm conscious of all of this, I'm really conscious of it. I keep catching myself in the middle of the word "phenomenal" or I'll be about to say that someone is my faaaavorite person in the world... and then I stop halfway through and try to rephrase. But why? I don't care. It's who I am. Extremist. Passionate. Excitable. Ridiculous. My best friend Jessie says, "She's just being Carly."

Okay. I'm going to bed. This is the most annoying blog in the world.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Only Man A Girl Can Trust

A lot of people think that they have the best dad in the world. I'm happy for each of them... but I know the truth: Fred Crookston is the absolute best father in history.

I'm not saying that he's perfect, because he'll be the first to tell you that he isn't. What I am saying is that I don't know any other man like him. I don't know any other man who I can respect and trust and love as much as my daddy. I just can't help it -- I'm a daddy's girl. I'm nearly 21 years old and I've lived away from home for three years now, but it's always going to be this way. I always have and always will call him Daddy and I don't care who knows. That's just how it is, and I'm okay with that.

I love my daddy for a million reasons. He is the hardest worker I know, for one. He provides for our family and has an incredible wisdom when it comes to prioritizing -- I grew up knowing that family was my dad's main concern. He would rather spend time and money making memories with his wife and children than buying toys; consequently, our family vacations are among my most cherished memories. I appreciate his dedication to his work and his willingness to sacrifice more than I can possibly articulate.

More than just being a hard worker and excellent provider, my father is the definition of a servant. I have never seen my dad put himself first in my entire life. Daddy constantly thinks of others and he goes out of his way to make life easier for those around him. He is logical and a do-er, not a talker. When he sees a need, he does everything that he can to fulfill it instead of forming committees and having meetings and trying to delegate things that he can do himself. He takes care of everyone.

Because I have grown up with a father who is so selfless and available to me, I think that I took his generosity for granted, but now that I'm on my own[ish], I appreciate it more than ever. Daddy is practical and logical to a fault, yes, but when it comes to taking care of his family, there is nobody more giving. My parents constantly have a stream of guests staying in the house and they are picture perfect hosts. I get to bring friends home for a weekend every fall, and not only is it completely stress free for me, but all of my friends leave loving my parents.

Part of the reason that they love them so much is because of how ridiculous and fun Daddy is. I don't think that he has ever been bored for a minute in his life; Fred Games are legendary amongst the four of us and all of our friends. Daddy has fun in everything, whether we're driving in the carpool answering random questions or sitting around the house on a snowy afternoon.

The thing is, my father is more than just a great man. He is more than just a wonderful husband and a hard worker and a Godly example of faith. Daddy is an incredible father. There is limitless literature published on the importance of father figures in a girl's life, and I am blessed to have the picture of a secure, loving man at the center of mine. Never have I doubted that Daddy would do anything for me. Never have I been afraid of my dad or unsure of my worth in his eyes. He has always treated me like a beautiful young woman who deserved respect and appreciation, and that is exactly what he gave me. For my entire life, I have had women tell me that my future husband would have impossible expectations to reach, but I don't think they're impossible at all. Because of who my dad is, I know that I will end up with someone who will love me just as much as he does, who takes care of me just as well as he takes care of my mom, and who will love our children just as much as Daddy loves me.

For a long time, Daddy used to call me his rock, but the truth is, he is mine. I would be lost without him, and I don't tell him that often enough. So Happy Birthday, Daddy. Thank you for showing me what God created men to be. I love you more than I can possibly say.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Good Bye... Forever.

Dear Friends,

Remember last year when my class schedule threatened to swallow me whole? And I constantly wrote about how busy I was and how I had so little time to write? And secretly in my mind, I thought that my professors were trying to kill me?

Well, I was wrong -- that time. This semester, however? This semester is a very different story. All that I can say is that I now know for certain that my classes are trying to kill me. Trust me -- I am very, very right.

Let's start with my Pilates instructor and her personal vendetta against my abs. First of all, you should know something about this woman: I have never in my life seen anyone who looks like her. We all have those women around us who look so impossibly good that it's sickening, but Claire looks even better than that. She looks like the airbrushed bodies that you see in magazines. You know, the ones that you look at, but always find solace in the fact that nobody really looks like that in real life, right? Uhhmmm...she does. PLUS, just to add insult to injury, the other day she let the fact that she is 50 years old slip. Excuse me?? Don't get me wrong -- a lot of women who are extremely dear to me are in that age range, and I'm excited for the chance to age as gracefully and wonderfully as they have, but I mean, come on. This is just embarrassing.

So her class twice a week is motivation enough to stick with Pilates for, oh I don't know, the rest of my life. It's tough, but it's awesome. I love it. Sometimes I daydream about getting really good at it and owning a studio one day and wearing that pretty, flowy, dancer-y clothing that Claire wears and subsisting on raw nuts and veggies and meditating on mountaintops in my spare time. But that's neither here nor there.

If, then, my Pilates instructor is gorgeous [albeit a Nazi when it comes to my core], my rock climbing instructor can be summed up in a single phrase: OH MY GOSH. Despite his Napoleon complex, he is smoldering. Literally, I get distracted from his "lectures" because he is so ridiculously attractive. I don't know where Grand Valley has been hiding all of these painfully good looking people for the past two years, but Joe is making my goal of dating a professor seem more and more immediately plausible [...just kidding, Mom. I won't date him. He's not really even a professor, and I would obviously want someone far more academic. Plus, like you always taught me, you can't have a conversation with brawn and rippling muscles, now can you? Okay, now I feel awkward...].

ANYWAY, I have run into a bit of an issue as far as the actual rock climbing goes. We were bouldering on the second day of class, which just means that were climbing horizontally instead of vertically and therefore had no harnesses or ropes. I was climbing with a group of kids and I reached for a hold, but lost my grip and fell. It wasn't that huge of a deal, I didn't think... I mean, it hurt my ankle, but I didn't want to be That Girl on the second day of class. Besides, we have to wear the school's rock climbing shoes, which smell like a mixture between kitty litter and butt, and there was no way I was going to let Joe check my injury and consequently get near enough to catch a whiff of my clean feet in those things. So I limped out of class with my dignity trailing somewhere behind me.

Long story short, it's been a month and I'm still limping. I think it's a stress fracture, though, because yesterday [quick update] I was walking off the bus, heard/felt a pop, and tonight it is nearly as swollen as it was in the beginning. It's awesome, I'm really excited about it... plus, it makes rock climbing class really fun. Not. I haven't been on the wall the entire time, due to my sweet injury. I can't move my foot in the directions that I need to be able to climb, so I've been belaying a 37 lb Chinese girl named Ayaka for the entirety of the two hour class periods.

On the plus side, I have gotten so good at belaying that Joe has taken to pimping my services out... but I don't really know what to do with that.

So, I've been wandering around campus with a broken ankle and permanently sore muscles and you'd think that the one class that would give me a break would be boring old science, right? I'm in an honors geology course right now, which is basically watered down earth science with a few third grade activities thrown in to keep us non-science majors afloat. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Last week, for example, we made glaciers out of dirt, ice, and sand, and then graphed the subsequent bodies onto a sheet of paper with colored highlighters to label things like the "water level" and "delta." It's just short of awesome.

As with all earth science classes, though, we had to start with a unit on streams and erosion and other such nonsense. Interestingly enough, Grand Valley happens to be built on a stream system that runs into the Grand River, aka The Ravines. As a super cool class field trip, then, my professor [who apparently wants to be Bear Grylls] led us on an expedition into the uncharted wilderness surrounding Grand Valley. Now, I'm not saying that under the right circumstances [i.e., a cute boy asking me to go exploring and the luxury of a functioning ankle] I wouldn't have enjoyed this. I definitely could have. But to come to the edge of a cliff and have the professor peer over it and say, "Well, it's pretty steep, but just make sure to zigzag on your way down and help each other!" only to bound merrily over the precipice and jog ahead of the class, happily pointing out meander beds and failed sediment traps and terraces and flood plains.... well, I'll let you imagine how thrilled I was to hobble along behind my classmates, swatting at the lethal looking bugs that buzzed around me.

So, in conclusion, I would like to say that truly, literally, seriously -- my classes this semester want me dead. Maybe just suffering...but more likely, dead. You should consider this my farewell should they succeed. I shall miss you all.

xoxo,
Carly

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Won't Say I'm In Love...But I Am

There are a few things in life that make me unequivocally giddy. Sephora, for one. Don't judge me because it's my homepage. Also, books. I collect books. Oh, and speaking in accents. I loooove speaking in accents. Sometimes, I get so worked up that I start a story in my mind and go around my house, naturally playing my role, and yelling ridiculous things in random accents...it's not that I'm good at it, necessarily, I just really enjoy it. Today, for example, I developed some sort of style that I labeled as Eastern European. Why? Was it, in fact, indicative of how Eastern European people speak? I don't know. I just felt that it fit.

As much as I love makeup and books and accents [and fat InStyles, did I say that? Because that is absolutely on the list], there is one thing that completely, literally takes away my breath every time. Ever since I was a little girl, and I do mean young, I would stop in my tracks at the mere mention of this and to this day, I cannot help the joy that spreads through my entire body whenever it is mentioned. My eyes light up, my mouth falls agape, my heart skips a beat, and my entire body breaks out in shivers and gooesebumps.

I have one word: Broadway.

More generally, musicals. I rediscovered a cd called Ultimate Broadway over the summer and it reignited this passion that lies so close to the surface of who I am. For some reason, musicals penetrate my soul. I mean, I was literally raised on Rogers and Hammerstein -- I sang all of "I'm Just a Girl Who Cain't Say No" obsessively at the age of five. Miss Saigon haunted me for weeks after I saw it. The music of Les Miserables practically changed my life. My aunt took Bailey and I to Loy Norrix's production of Hello Dolly! when I was in 1st grade and thereby shaped my relationship with my closest cousin. Mamma Mia and Hairspray have consumed my past two summers. And don't get me started on Guys and Dolls and Phantom of the Opera and Chicago and Wicked, because I have no words.

I don't know what it is specifically that attracts me to musicals. As much as I love the loud, playful, glittery, showy feel of some of the stories, there is something darker and more inherently serious in most of them. Think about it -- though masked in catchy tunes and colorful costumes, they deal with heavy topics like racism, war, discrimination, murder...and the entire French Revolution. So much depth, so little time.

Consequently, I guess it doesn't come as a huge surprise that I am literally giddy at the idea of Glee, the new TV show on Fox. Oh... My... Gosh. It's like this delectable little serialized musical EVERY WEEK. I nearly died in ecstasy tonight during the first show -- ask my roommates. My heart beat faster. I randomly erupted into teensy screams...then bigger, more obnoxious ones. I jumped up on my [not quite yet healed] feet and bounced around, only to pounce on Michaeleen or Jessie and bury my head in their laps, fearful that the goodness was only a dream. Praise Jesus, it's not.

The show is about a high school glee club and there are a smattering of song and dance numbers throughout the hour. The story line is snarky and ridiculous and delicious and the cast has a LOT of talent. After the pilot aired this summer, I was a little skeptical -- it seemed like they were trying to cram too much plot into too little material, but this episode made me see the light. Despite the fact that the female lead reminds me forcefully of a drama queen that I used to go to school with [haaaaaate it], I cannot help but to love it. Seriously. I'm writing this, and I just keep smiling and shrugging my shoulders and smiling again... I look like an idiot. I don't care. I love musicals and I don't care who knows!!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go practice my choreography. I plan to break into a random song and dance by the clock tower tomorrow. It's going to be epic.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Misadventures Continue

When I say that I'm all or nothing, I'm really not kidding. This impassioned personality drives me to do ridiculous things, such as collect every single issue of InStyle for years and years on end or spend an entire summer's worth of paychecks on bras and panties or voraciously read an entire 500 page book in two sittings.

Consequently, Memoirs of a Geisha is the best piece of fiction that I have read in a long time.

I feel slightly guilty when I disappear into another world like that; I mean, I don't want to miss out on roommate bonding simply because my mind moved to WWII era Japan last Friday. So when Jessie popped into my bedroom last night to say that she was going on a walk, I benevolently tore myself away from the pages. It was cool and dark by the time that she and Allison and I left the townhouse, so we thought we should probably walk on campus where there are lights. You know, Allendale is very dangerous and urban...so just to be on the safe side.

Let's just talk about Grand Valley's campus for a minute. First of all, it is the most gorgeous campus I have ever seen in my life. Granted, I instantly fell in love with North Park when I visited it in Chicago three years ago; it seemed like the perfect, quintessential college campus with its brooding buildings and hidden walkways in the city. I never thought I would find anything better, but as I walked on my campus late last night for the first time in months, my heart swelled in pride. There are trees everywhere. Artwork and sculptures and ponds and pathways and perfectly manicured lawns define this place. Under the stars and the moonlight last night, I couldn't help but reflect on all of the memories and experiences that I have had in this place and my heart fell just a little bit more in love.

Now, there are a number of things that every Grand Valley student has to do before they graduate, an unofficial list of sorts. For example, there is a giant metal ball hanging off of one of the buildings that nearly every freshman jumps on to take stupid pictures and post them to Facebook. I think that the purpose is to show... I don't know, circular motion or inertia or gravity or torque or some other word that I don't really know the meaning of, but I can pretend. Anyway, I was above such things as a freshman, but mainly because I have an irrational fear of jumping onto things.... like rope swings endlessly terrify me. Whatever. The point is that it was something that kind of needed to be done before I graduated, and last night seemed as good a night as any.

It wasn't that bad, really, but it wasn't that spectacular either. I mean, the three of us laughed at how STUPID I looked, but other than that, it wasn't that big of a deal. So we traipsed over to the fountain outside of Student Services to check another thing off the list.

You see, there is this fountain, this beautiful three-tiered fountain that looks somewhat spectacular when it's all lit up at night. Students are obviously highly discouraged from getting into said fountain, but... we're college students so Allison and Jessie and I decided to wade around in it. Jess jumped up on the edge of it, more hyper than I've seen her in a long time, and while Allison and I finished rolling up our pants, she jumped in.

Except you know how wet surfaces are, oh I don't know, SLIPPERY?? Yeah, the bottom of this shallow fountain was no different, and before we really knew what was happening, Jess's feet slid out from underneath her and she fell. In the fountain. Just slipped and fell. It was like watching a cartoon character step on a banana peel, only to pause midair and then plummet to the ground in a heap. If she had been mere inches to the right or left, she could have been seriously hurt...but she wasn't.

Consequently, I think I blacked out from laughing so hard.

I'm not kidding. Allison and I were literally rolling around on the brick walkway, wheezing from laughing too hard. Jess just jumped out of the water and came and sat on top of us with her wet clothes dripping all over our dry ones. I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard. It was a really good night.

I won't go into details about how Allison and I lifted Jess into the next tier of the fountain or how we nearly froze on our walk home or how a couple boys in rollerblades nearly killed us on the way, but suffice it to say it was a good night. Maybe it was one of those nights where you had to be there to get it... or maybe it set the tone for a really great semester. Either way, I'm still laughing.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Same Questions, New Adventures

Here I am. Finally.

Here I am where I belong, where I love, where I grow, where I nearly always long to be. I am back in my townhouse; it feels so incredibly, deliciously different this year. I have two new roommates and the change in temperament is tangible. I walk in and feel calm. I walk in and feel at home. I walk in and feel like I never left.

Well, that's not really true. Last year ended on a high note and while this year looks like it's picking up pretty much right were I left off, there are going to be some serious changes in my life.

I don't mind change, for the most part. I think I've told you that before. With the exception of leaving my heart at school to come home for the summer, I have never feared the unknown. I'm learning, though, that change and the unknown are not always the same thing. The unknown is scary and dark and mysterious; change is just her cheeky little sister. Last week, relationships changed in my life. My wonderful youth pastor moved to Texas. My childhood best friend got married. Other important friendships redefined themselves considerably. The tables are turning once again, and once again I am on the verge of something big.

To say that this summer was horrible would be a gross exaggeration; to say that I was happy would be only a slight exaggeration; to say that I loved it would be a lie. I'm caught in the balancing act between growing out of one home and into another, vacillating between childhood and adulthood. Saying goodbye to Steve and seeing Kelsey as a beautiful bride solidified this fact in my mind, but this summer as a whole taught me too. My world continues to turn and all I can do is observe it, continually trying to redefine myself and my position in it as the woman I am becoming.

One conversation I had the summer before I moved to college always strikes me in times like this. I was at Food Dance with Rachel, an awesome, beautiful friend of mine. She had graduated from college a year earlier, and I will never forget the look on her face or the tone of her voice when she leaned over and said, "Carly, I am a completely different person today than I was when I was a freshman." At the time, I tried to envision the Carly of the Future, the college graduate, the one that was so vastly different than the one sitting in Food Dance that day. What was I going to be like? Prettier? Thinner? More serious? More focused? In a wildly different career path than creative writing?

Over two years later and I'm halfway done with undergrad and I can partially answer those questions: Yes....and no. I know I am different than I was as a freshman. The pictures on my wall prove it. My friendships prove it. The way I think and the way I go about doing things proves it. I feel different. I don't know how, exactly, but I know that I am. I know I am when I look at three of the girls who have been constant in my life since I got to GVSU and see their growth and progress. I know we're on the same page. I know I'm heading in the right direction.

So I start this year the way I left the last one: on the verge of something huge, something great, something fabulous and Carly-specific. My hopes are incredibly high, and I have faith that I won't be disappointed. I'm ready. The only question that remains is who wants to go on this adventure with me?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An Ode Full of Hatred and Love

Since it's been over a year since I started writing this blog, let's do a quick recap of things that should be obvious to anyone who has ever looked at it for even the flashiest of flashes.

1. My name is Carly.

2. I think writing is okay.

3. I live in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

4. I go through phases.

5. I sort of like college.

6. I hate running.

Oh, what is that you say? I've never covered my intense loathing for aerobic activity? Well, well, well...we have a lot of catching up to do.

It's not that I hate working out. I mean, I can be honest enough with myself to say that I don't love working out, but generally once I'm at the gym, I'm okay [except for that one time Shelby and I went for a grand total of 12 minutes...but that's another story altogether...]. I love the burn in my arms and legs and abs when I'm actually working hard. I love being sore and knowing that it's for a reason. I love walking on the track for an embarrassingly long time, daydreaming about different things every day. But I don't love "working out." And I especially don't love running.

Let's just ignore the fact that I'm quite possibly the slowest runner in the world for a moment [but seriously -- I'm pretty sure geriatric grannies pass me with their walkers]. I could get past the ridiculously red face, the icky panting, and that feeling like my throat is about to close up if I could just hit that point that everyone talks about, that elusive Runner's High. Where is that?? Where is my Runner's High?! Plus, all of my friends who are runners always nod their head knowingly and claim that it is an addictive activity, to which all I can say is: YEAH RIGHT. I feel like I'm being lied to constantly.

And okay, maybe I need to run more than three days in a row to get the feel for what they are saying, but it is just so horrible! I push myself hard, but the only thing that has been getting me through it is the idea of this blog post lamenting my situation, and now that this is done...what's next? My music choices are already ridiculous enough... I think I need something different. While most people listen to hard core rap with a beat to keep them going, I vascillate between P!nk, Britney, and other random stuff. Seriously, the other day it was a mix of Gloria Estefan and Queen; I felt like I was the main clip in an 80's movie montage. In my head, I was running on the track, then suddenly I was in a powder pink bathroom, ruining the ozone layer with my intense amounts of hairspray and rimming my eyes in some electric blue liner. Then the scene would cut to me and my friends going through stacks and stacks of vinyl at the album store, with a close up on our fingerless-gloved hands flipping through titles. THEN we'd suddenly be at some killer party, where James Spader and Andrew McCarthy would fight over me. The montage would end with me stepping off the track and straightening my leg warmers, Flashdance style.

Look at the lengths I go to in order to distract myself from the task at hand. I DESIGNED MY OWN 80'S MOVIE MONTAGE. Running is just not working for me.

In all honesty, I never would have made it through the era of high cut bathing suits and Buns of Steel; it would have forced me to be a very different person, a timid and insecure person. As ridiculous as it may seem, I'm incredibly grateful to live in time where curves are more socially acceptable again and where a woman can look like a woman. I don't want to go so far as to say I owe my sense of confidence and self-appreciation to J.Lo or Kim Kardashian, but they've helped, you know? Besides, I think that women like them are more beautiful than skeletal stick figures any day. Feminity and womanly figures should be celebrated, not starved off and ran to the bone.

Maybe I'm just saying that because I really, really hate running. Because I do -- I just detest it. And it can't help that I'm the most impatient person in the world when it comes to exercise results... I do 20 crunches and then feel my abs. On one hand, it's easier to "appreciate" the more natural state of one's body. But on the other hand, I think it's an active decision to love your shape, especially when there is still a lot of pressure coming from different directions to look a certain way. Sir Mix-A-Lot and Beyonce have helped, but even they can't fix everything.

So with that, I'll make my verdict: I still hate running. But that's okay, because I love my body the way it is. And even if, against all odds, I somehow fall into a running phase where I experience the addiction firsthand, it's still okay -- I could run 500 miles a week and still have this Crookston booty. Either way, I'm looking all right.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

All You Need Is Love: The Story Behind the Album

By definition, I consider myself a romantic, but a very specific breed of such -- I am a cliche-hating romantic. I don't believe that there is one specific person out there for everyone, I don't believe in love at first sight, and I promise you that if my future boyfriend/fiancee/husband/whatever chooses to propose to me on Valentine's Day, I will punch him in the face and say no, try again in a week. That is a guarantee. Don't test me, because I will do it, I promise.

That being said, there is something about Christine and her boyfriend Rex that makes me wonder about my staunch stances on such things. Not the Valentine's Day proposal [nothing will ever change my mind about that], but about the concept of soul mates, people born to be together.


I can't quite put my finger on it. The way he treats her, the weird sense of humor that they share, their commonalities and their differences -- it all adds up into being a really beautiful picture of young love. They are real and they are not perfect, but they are better together and they find their strength in their bond. What's more, they have fun together... a lot of it. I've been there -- I've seen it. I don't always understand why the activity of choice is fun, per se [rat birthday party, anyone?], but Christine and Rex have a pretty contagious enthusiasm for life.

To be concise, they are the couple with whom nobody is the third wheel, and as the perennially single girl tagging along with coupled off friends, let me tell you: This. Is. A. Rarity.

Needless to say then, when Rex asked me to help him think of a plan to propose, I died a little bit from excitement. I mean, I've only been waiting for this moment, my entire life -- to be a small part of one of the most important, special moments in one of my best friends' lives??!??! I could probably bounce a couple ideas around, sure...

And so we talked and talked and planned and planned and made phone calls and visited locations and finally, the genius ideas were in place and all that was left to do was to keep it a surprise. This wasn't easy when Christine knew that I knew, and therefore pinned me down on the couch one day, demanding to know what was going on, but at that point I just laughed. I'm so sure. As if I would tell her anything about this.

See, here's the thing: Christine and I have known each other forever. Quite literally, we grew up together at Calvary, at Heritage, at KAMSC...birthday parties, field trips, school changes, lab practicals, graduation, college nightmares and triumphs, breakups, health scares, family issues -- we've been through a lot together. So you'd think that we might have photographic evidence of this...except we don't. Christine and I had one picture together since second grade, and it wasn't even cute. It was obnoxious.


See? Oh gross. I can't believe I'm putting this on here. We were sitting in my car in Christine's driveway. This was the day before I left for Brazil, and by the time that I got home, Christine was already going to be at State for school. Effectively, we wouldn't see each other again until Christmas...so we took this picture?? My 18-year-old mind baffles me. And I needed to cut my hair. Anyway. I digress.

Since neither of us particularly like this picture, we always talk about how we need to take pictures together...and then proceed not to. My 20-year-old mind baffles me too, sometimes.

Luckily for us, my Aunt Nan is an amateur photographer, and she's always willing to indulge her favorite niece's borderline narcissism. I told Christine that Aunt Nan wanted to work with more than one individual at a time in a more urban setting than my front yard, just to beef up her "portfolio" and expand her skill set. What Christine didn't know was that it was all part of the mastermind plan and that Aunt Nan was in on the whole thing. Oh no. Christine had no idea what was about to happen.

So we went downtown and took roughly 13 billion pictures. Needless to say, it was awesome and Christine and I got some vastly improved pictures together.

Thank you, Jesus and Aunt Nan, for making this possible.

After a while, at a seemingly random and yet perfectly orchestrated, predetermined time, the three of us headed back to Bronson Park. As we walked up the sidewalk towards the fountain, her family casually ambled out from behind it and sat down on a bench. Christine didn't see them though. She was distracted.

What Rex could possibly be doing in the middle of this beautiful park with a bouquet of flowers is beyond me. I mean, you'd think he was proposing or something!! But, no, Christine still didn't pick up on what was going on.

I think she's starting to catch on...

Halfway through Rex's romantic speech, Christine finally figured out what was happening.


And then this happened...

I'll give you one guess as to what her answer was.

To say "Mission Accomplished" might be a bit out of place here, considering I was only a small accomplice, and yet...that's all I can think of. One of my best friends is getting married, and I am thrilled that I got to be a part of her proposal story. Congratulations, Christine and Rex! I love you both and I am so excited for your future together. It's going to be beautiful, just like you.


Oh, and don't worry. I promise to be the best Maid of Honor in history.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Depth Perception

I have this dichotomy within me. Maybe we all do...maybe it's normal. Maybe everyone feels like they could talk for seven years without pausing for breath, only to try and find that there is nowhere in particular to start. Maybe everyone wants the exact things that are worst for them, recklessly pursues dead ends, allows chasms in the most obvious friendships, and neglects the most important aspect of life for weeks at a time. Maybe everyone wakes up every so often and wonders where the past months have gone. Maybe everyone has danced that deceitful dance with Time, the one where she drags and drags and drags and drags, only to trick you into missing the days in between. Maybe everyone experiences this...or maybe it's just me.

This summer started as a blank slate. It was supposed to be a time of growth, a time of rest, a time to reconnect with certain things and people and disconnect from other things and people and have lots of new experiences and read voraciously and learn unabashedly... So why do I feel like I've wasted it? Why is my excitement to move back to the place where I belong and flourish tinged with sadness? Why do I live my life with such dedicated procrastination that as my months at home dwindle to weeks, which will inevitably dwindle to days, I suddenly feel rushed to squeeze four months of life into two weeks of time? Why can't I learn the lessons that have been repeating themselves for years now?

I define myself as a writer. I greet all life experiences and stages with open arms, as long as I have my writing to make sense of it later. I write to be known; I write so that people may know who I am. And yet, sometimes I write to conceal -- to conceal the truth, to conceal myself behind words that offer some semblance of protection. Still other times, I am so unsure of who I am that I am paralyzed and quite literally
cannot write; these are the hardest times. These are the times like this summer, when I am so consumed with boredom and confusion as to what I am doing with my life that writing seems an insurmountable task. It's not that I lack things to write about -- it's that I lack the means with which to make sense of any of it.

And so, here I go again. I wax philosophical about what I should have done, what I could have done, what I wish I had done. I lie in bed, contemplating the heaviness of this piece, and I have to sigh. All I do is ramble. I throw some big words in, mix in the parallel structure that is so idiosyncratic to my work now, and end with some hopeful little note about "next time"...and then what? What will I do when I wake up in the morning? Will I suddenly have the motivation to move through my day with purpose? Will I reawaken my resolve to
LIVE instead of just "live" like I have been all summer? I can't really answer that.

But I hope so. I really really hope so. Because tomorrow is a new day, a blank slate of its own. And I'm going to make the most of it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let's Set the Record Straight

I would just like to say that I am being severely misrepresented on a good friend's blog. I won't say names [Christine], but let it be known that despite my familial quirks and attention-seeking tendencies, I am not as weird as she makes me out to be. Not only that, but I would like to argue that SHE, in fact, is the odd one.

Let me back up and explain. Christine moved in with my family a few weeks ago, and it has been wonderful. She fits in perfectly with Shelby and Taylor and I, and the four of us have an awesome time together. Most days I just look at her and I am so grateful that she lives with me -- it has brought us closer as friends and I love the way our relationship is growing.

I also love having her here, because it gives me an interesting outside perspective on the life that I've always taken for granted. I think that I have a pretty good grasp on how unusually close knit and fun my extended family is, but now I see it through Christine's eyes, and I will be the first to say it: we're crazy. I mean, personally, I find us hilarious and highly entertaining, but we're crazy nonetheless.

Christine has taken to documenting this on her own blog, dedicated completely to the insanity that is the Crookston household/Creamer family traits. For the most part, I absolutely love this thing -- first of all, Christine is a good writer and it's very well done. Secondly, who doesn't love to read about themselves? I'm just being honest... Also, it's like she's journaling for me, so when it's October and I'm lamenting the loss of summer, I can simply read this and smile. What's more, it makes me laugh a lot. The things that she write about are hilarious and fun the first time around, but reading her succinct versions make it even better.

But for now, I am done singing the praises of the enemy. As you can see by her Day 22 and Day 23 posts, she is making me out to be a crazy person. Just because we went around Portage and I pretended to be engaged in a few different stores does not mean I'm weird. And plenty of people bobsled race on their kitchen counter. And Camp Crookston is surely a normal thing. Truly, I have no words for the deep betrayel I feel in my heart. I mean, come on! I'm just trying to help Christine plan for her impending engagement. Someone needs to think about details. And to be fair, she got on the counter first tonight...and suddenly we found ourselves "racing bobsleds." We have active imaginations, okay??

I really don't have anything to complain about. I'm just rambling. It's just that when I told Christine that she was making me sound like a delusional wannabe bridezilla who was living vicariously through one of her best friends, she just laughed and said, "Start a counterblog." Which got me thinking -- I already have a blog! I'll just use that one!! So this is me, sticking out my tongue at Christine and saying, "Haha! I have a blog too. Na na na boo boo."

Also, I won that bobsled race. Even though we weren't moving. I definitely took the lead around that last "left" turn. So there. I'm over it.

The Shiny Guy ALWAYS Worries.

Confession: I am a closet Star Wars nerd.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry -- please don't judge me. It's nothing like Shelby's frenetic obsession with Lord of the Rings, but I just love it. As a self-proclaimed movie snob, this is hard to stomach; admittedly, the acting is horrible. I mean, if one more character says some variation of "I have a bad feeling about this..." as Storm Troopers loom near or else they tell some unlikely protagonist that they are the "only hope" for salvation from certain doom, I might kick my TV. Literally. I will get off of my couch, walk to my TV, and kick it. Oh, and those graphics in the original trilogy? Hilarious. But regardless -- there is something about it that I just absolutely love.

Maybe it's the sentimental history that I have with the movies. I have this weird quirk about me where I remember a ton of really distinct details about certain events...Shelby gets really creeped out by it. I don't know why some memories stick so strongly whereas others don't, but it happens. Anyway, one of my absolute favorite childhood memories happened when I was in third or fourth grade. It was a summer night, a Sunday, I think, and I was sitting in the basement of my old house. The lights were off, but the dying sun shone threw the windows that were near the ceiling. The basement was the coolest place in the house, and I was practicing the piano down there. Even though I had never seen the movies, I was learning the iconic Star Wars theme song; I think that Episode 1 was set to be released soon. Anyway, I ran through it a time or two before my dad literally bounded down the stairs. "Is that Star Wars?!" he asked, excited. I shrugged.

"Yeah," I said.

"Get in the van!" he shouted.

Minutes later, my brothers and sister and I were piled in that old white van, speeding toward Blockbuster to rent the trilogy. We stopped at the McDonalds drivethru and got cheeseburgers and went back to the basement, where my father introduced us to that galaxy far far away.

Ever since then, I have loved the franchise. I loved it when the first three episodes came out...I have a similar memory of a late night movie theatre adventure [it was Father's Day, Payne Stewart won the US open that day, and after Daddy watched that, we went to a late show of Episode 1 at M-89 Cinema, Drue's friend AJ was with us, and I literally thought it was the coolest thing in the world that ours was one of the only cars left in the parking lot after the movie, plus I was with AJ. Like, omigosh.] I loved collecting the Mountain Dew cans with all of the characters on it. I loved that it gave Drue and I something in common.

What's more, I just love the story. And I love Harrison Ford. And I love the genius and creativity that went into making the movies. They are so weird and stupid and yet incredible... it's all about the oxymoron. Needless to say, then, when I went to Blockbuster on my own last weekend and rented, ahem, Star Wars: A New Hope, The Usual Suspects, and The Music Man, it was all about the oxymoron. Also a given, once I watched a single episode, I needed to watch the rest. That's why Shelby and I snuck out of the house, got McDonalds, and locked ourselves in our bedroom with the original trilogy. We have traditions surrounding those movies. The result? Bliss. Han Solo, love I do. Luke, creepier and creepier gets.

Anyway, I just felt the need to confess this to you. I'm not this type of girl -- I don't think many people would peg me as a major Star Wars fan. And in my defense, it's not like I'm hoarding plastic lightsabers under my bed or that I sleep in Chewbaca boxers or anything...I just have a healthy appreciation for fantasy worlds and nostalgia.

Oh, and this little girl. She makes my life and drives me crazy to watch one of the movies everytime I see her. Also, she makes me want to have a baby right now and name her Padme or Yoda or Lando or something equally ridiculous, but that is neither here nor there. Please please please please please please watch this. Then rent A New Hope. Then try to tell me you're not in love with George Lucas for gracing everyone with such a lovely gift. Just try. I dare you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Adventures of Schmugly Bear and Carlicious: A Mess

Have I ever told you about Eric? Oh Eric, one of my very best friends. He is the male version of me, except full of surprises. Eric is the most wonderful boy in the entire world to me -- we have more fun than I can even describe and sometimes when I'm with him, I laugh so hard, I simply have to scream, because I cannot laugh fast enough to get everything out. I love this boy.

The feelings were not always mutual, apparently. Having grown up in the same church, Eric and I have literally known each other our entire lives. We did plays together at the Civic and co-MCed the Senior Banquet for our Youth Group and spent four years causing trouble in the back row of Sunday school. For some reason, though, we never hung out outside of those activities. Finally, the summer after we graduated, I roped him into going to dinner with me and we stayed at Applebees until it closed that night, lying in the booths because we were laughing so hard. As we walked to our cars, practically gasping for breath, I said, "Why have we never done this before?" and he just kept laughing and said, "Well, I really couldn't stand you!"

And so the truth came out. I don't know what happened that changed his mind, but despite the shady beginning, Eric and I became fast friends. I love everything about him, except for the fact that he goes to school in New Jersey, or, the Dirty Jerz as we have come to call it. Consequently, I don't get to see him often. I don't love that at all. After six long months, though, I drove to Detroit to pick him up at the airport on Thursday and the scene that ensued was priceless. I pulled up to the curb, screamed his name, ran into his arms, and caused quite a commotion in general. My heart was full in that moment. It was the most platonically romantic experience I think I've ever had, if that makes any sense.

Unfortunately, he's only home for a short little bit, and I feel bad for his poor mother, because I inadvertently monopolize his time. We had the drive home, which was fun [despite the fact that I accidentally sideswiped a construction barrel and lost the passenger-side mirror on my dad's car -- not important in light of the fact that I was reunited with my long lost friend, right? Right...] and I didn't take him home until 2:30 in the morning. Whoops. I shared him on Friday, though...I didn't see him at all on Friday, I just talked to him on the phone 37 times. No big deal.

Saturday, however, was different. Eric had the audacity to call me at 10:00 AM, which in Carly-time is painfully early. I obviously didn't answer, because the last time I answered the phone when Eric called me while I was sleeping, he said nothing except how I sounded like death for a solid 10 minutes. No thanks. THEN the jerkface called the house phone and recruited my mother to wake me up, which she was only too happy to do. Rude.

Forty-five minutes later I pulled into his driveway and he answered the door, practically beaming. "Follow me," he said as way of greeting. I followed him through his house, into his garage and he turned around. "Have you ever been kayaking?" he asked me.

"Uh...no." I said. His smile grew.

"Well," he said, "This is Boris!" He pointed at a blue kayak hanging from hooks in the ceiling, introducing me to the day's activity.

Before I really knew what was happening, we had loaded the kayak into my parents' van and driven to Austin Lake in Portage. I took off my shoes without really thinking about where I was, only to step in something brown and mushy. "ERIC!" I screamed, "I JUST STEPPED IN DOG POOP!!"

He started to laugh and said, "Actually, it's probably a goose..."

Have I mentioned how much I hate birds? Yeah.

Eric showed me the basics of kayaking [it is as simple as it looks] and then put me in Boris. Kayaking really isn't difficult, it's just tricky to find your balance in the beginning. Eric just stood on the shore, wheezing at my attempts to control myself and paddle around in front of him. A group of men stood on a dock near us and stared at me, unsure of whether or not I was amusing or pathetic. I wasn't sure either, to be honest.

I felt bad hogging Boris, so I made Eric try to sit on him with me. Yeah, that worked REALLY WELL. He effectively soaked his pants and nearly sunk the one person kayak in three feet of water. While this doesn't sound inherently hilarious, trust me when I say that it was.

Anyway, we paddled around for a while until we were bored with Boris, and then we went to lunch at El Jimador, where we made a list of the movies that we needed to watch this summer and started to plan a trip to India. Some things that I love about Eric: he loves movies, traveling, and ethnic foods almost as much as I do. It's wonderful. Also, he tolerates my addiction to musicals, which is helpful. We also made tentative plans to hit up New York City herself when I fly out to the Dirty Jerz in August. Now THAT will be an adventure.

Do you know how when you're on a diet, the first week is always the hardest? It's like, all you can think about is how much you want chocolate or cheese or buttery popcorn, but you can't have any of it? But then, after a little while, you're used to not eating it, so it's easier to stop obsessing? That's how I felt when I said goodbye to my Eric today. He flew back to the Jerz and even though I'll see him in a month and a half, it still sucks. I miss him more today than I did a week ago.

And so, dear friend, thank you for coming home. Next time let's chronicle our adventures with pictures. Let's go to the zoo and Saffron and the Rave and the beach and play on the farm and see a show at the Civic and kayak with Boris again. I miss you. I'll see you soon, but never soon enough.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My New Roommate

When I think about what I planned my summer to be, I laugh. How different. How funny. While I would love nothing more than to be setting sail on an adventure around the world next week, I cannot imagine leaving. I think that's a good thing. Besides, my friend Christine? The one who was my travel companion? Well, let's just say, we ended up as roommates anyway, so it all worked out.

Christine is one of two of my close friends home this summer. I knew I would see her a lot, but I wasn't expecting to live with her. I'm excited to share my house and my family, but...well...there is one problem. I named this post "My new roommate," and unfortunately, it's not referring to Christine. It's referring to this one.

This is Cindy.

Did I mention that Christine has a pet rat? Oh yeah, no big deal. Just a RAT with a RAT TAIL. And RAT ACCESSORIES. Case in point:


Yep, the rat is wearing a hat. It gets better though -- today, Christine and I were downstairs when I received a text from Shelby. "Ask Christine if it's okay if I put Cindy in some Barbie clothes...because I am..." That's right: my little sister was playing dress up with a RAT.

It is a madhouse around here: everyone loves her!! I mean, except for me...I have yet to be sold on the idea of sharing my bedroom with a rodent. And yes, Christine insists that "rats are the dogs of the rodent world," which, if I'm understanding correctly, simply means that they are friendly and make sweet pets. Good for them. I still don't understand the appeal. Shelby was sold almost immediately, however, and now spends the days begging me to let Cindy "scurry across my shoulders," because once that happens, apparently I'll be hooked. She went as far as to place the rat on my neck tonight, causing my entire body to instantly prickle with goosebumps. Taylor, given his current state of psychosis, is madly in love. I think Taffy has reason to be worried -- he plays with Cindy in my room and giggles and coos to her as if she's his child. He's already taken a few dozen picture of her, which is a sure sign of his new obsession. It's baffling, let me tell you.

And my poor father...Fred has never asked for any of this. He is such a good man, a patient man, a dedicated and doting husband to an eccentric wife, and because of this he has found himself the proud owner of a hobby farm. Now this? A rat? I think it goes without saying that Daddy is the only one left on my side of being anti-rat. He's civil toward Cindy, but...that's about it.

Horrifyingly enough, I sometimes waver in my staunch position and almost begin to admit that she's kind of cute. Once in a while, I stoop down and look at her in her cage and she puts her tiny paws on the bars and looks back at me. The times that my siblings have placed her on my body, she licks me with her teensy tongue, and despite the fact that I'm repulsed, they say that means she likes me...I still struggle with that one. Christine refers to me as "Auntie Carly," though, and then I feel horribly guilty for not liking my quasi-niece. I mean, yes, she's a rodent, but Christine genuinely loves her, so maybe I should give her a second chance?

Gross. That might take a few more days.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Contentment

Just so we're all on the same page, you should probably know that Pioneer Woman referenced Steel Magnolias and Sephora in two successive days. Did we just become best friends?? That's what I thought.

I've been deeply inspired. I'm going to go get mah roots dun. And play with makeup. And listen to my newly rediscovered Ultimate Broadway CD.

I'm such a girl.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Exciting Life

It has come to my attention that some of you think that I lead an exciting life. How amusing. While it is true that by day I masquerade as Carly Crookston, even though my true identity is that of Sydney Bristow, I didn't realize that you knew that...so I need to come up with something to divert your attention away from my secret agent tendencies. Let's see...where do I even begin?

Well, I hung out with some Amish people last week. That was a treat. My mother pestered one of those cute lil' country boys about geraniums, and while we waited for his head to stop spinning from her flurry of questions, she tilted her head and said, "Like, do you know anything?" That was embarrassing. Note to self: Stop taking Julie on public excursions. Sweet Cletus [that's what I decided to call him in my mind] smiled shyly, and slowly said, "Naw, naw...I don't take no offense," when I indignantly cried out in his defense. It'a good thing Sweet Cletus is so sweet or else we probably would have had a whole bunch of Amish men with pitchforks and ominous looking beards chasing us. Needless to say, that would have been unfortunate.

After we harrassed Sweet Cletus for a while, we talked to Roger, who is a blog all by himself. He grows the world's best hostas and hoooooo boy, did he love his job. He called his plants his "babies," which would have been weird if Mom hadn't have been nodding her head appreciatively. Gardening...I will never get it. Next, we went to a restaurant called the Blue Plate, and Mama Dugger was our waitress. I ate my weight in pie. That was fun and I definitely didn't regret it for the rest of the night [**rolls eyes**]. Overall, Amish Country was pretty legit.

My next adventure consists of myself and exorbitant amounts of lingerie. For those of you keeping track, I finally got a job -- at Victoria's Secret. I had my "onboarding" last night, and as part of my training I had to watch the most horrible, ridiculous, asinine instructional videos ever created. By definition, training videos suck, but these ones made me want to gauge my eyeballs out with a spork. Seriously -- it was PAINFUL. But after that torture [and practicing bra fittings with my brand new coworkers], I got to try on some, ahem, product. Every job has its perks, right?

Anyway, my first day was today and, as is usually the case with the jobs that I have, I was painfully undertrained when I hit the floor. I was supposed to shadow another employee, but the store was understaffed and busy, so my new manager told me to straighten the "panty bar." That's right: The Panty Bar. I now have to use terms like this in all seriousness, so back off. I mean, my job was simple enough: straighten the Pink panties that the hoardes of middle school divas touch and mess up. The problem is that I am too well trained in customer service to ignore women with imploring, puppy dog eyes, and that is where I made my first mistake. I smiled at a guest, and she pounced.

"How are you doing?" I asked her. Her response?

"Can you measure me? It's been forever since I had a fitting."

Now, okay, I know that Victoria's Secret is supposed to be all about the right fit and whatever [sorry, Furrow. No one is making you read this, you know.], and that it is part of my job description to help women choose a bra in the right size, because after all, 70% of women wear the wrong bra size, and that is just stupid. And it's not like I'm physically uncomfortable to strap a tape measurer around a stranger's chest [although maybe I should be?] and talk about things like "lift" and "swell." I could do that all day...if I actually knew what I was talking about. Since I'd been an employee for about 5 minutes, however, it was sort of awkward. You know that point of no return, where you make eye contact with a stranger and can't decide if you actually know them, so you continue to stare in a slightly mystefied way, until they look at you like, "WHAT DO YOU WANT, CREEPFEST?!" and then you're like, "Oh. My bad." and only then does it get outrageously awkward? That's what it was like as I stood inches away from these women, staring at my tape measurer as if it were marked with heiroglyphics and saying, "Um..I think...I mean, I would say you're a 36B...what size do you normally wear? 34C? Oh, well...um...I'm new..."

So that was a blast and a half. I spent most of the day smoothing out the excessive amounts of panties that are on those little tables and trying to avoid eye contact. I have a feeling that I will love this job...but only once I can gain a little bit of product knowledge besides, "Well, this is a bra...and these are panties. What else can I help you with?"

After work, I went to dinner with Shelby and our cousin Mackenzie. We went to Carabbas and, given my dainty, ladylike appetite, I absolutely inhaled a steak. It was slightly embarrassing, but then I remembered that I don't get embarrassed, so I was over it. Besides, it was utterly delicious. What's more, our server was extremely impressed. I know, because he said so. His name was Nate and his tie clip was a fork. He was kind of weird, but in a cute-ish way...he looked like he would be friends with Old Navy Joe [be still my heart...consequently, I don't think that Old Navy Joe works there anymore. I suffer acute pains of disappointment everytime I walk through those once sacred aisles]. Anyone who is cool with Old Navy Joe is cool with me, so I left my phone number on the receipt. Stop judging. It was mostly a joke...unless he calls. Then we'll go from there.

Seriously, stop judging me. I never do this. It's literally the first time it's ever happened, and it's only because my cousin threatened to leave my number if I didn't and...whatever, okay?

So that about catches you up to speed. I also went shopping with my cousin Allie and found her the PERFECT dress for her 8th grade graduation...she looked beautiful. I made about 3 billion subs for Warner's open house, I bought some fabulous makeup in ridiculous colors, I've read roughly 7 books on the subject of creative nonfiction, planned a trip to New Jersey, perfected my Southern accent, joined a dating website as a joke, laughed a lot at said dating website, sighed in relief when said dating website terminated the trial membership, fought with my little sister, made up with my little sister, got talked into auditioning for The Amazing Race, received payment for my writing, and potentially landed the most incredible job in history. Whew.

So, those of you who think I live an exciting life? Maybe. But it's all a matter of perspective.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Sister.

My baby sister turned 19 today and, at risk of seeming maternal, I feel reflective. Mom dug her baby book out of some closet somewhere, and the three of us sat down to look at it together. I was deeply intrigued by the things that my mother wrote about Shelby nearly two decades ago. Now, I don't know a lot about kids or child development; I haven't spent enough time with babies to really witness and understand how they grow up and into who they are. Maybe this observation will seem cursory and simplistic, but I was awestruck by how, well, Shelby my sister was at 2, 3, 4 months old. Before she could speak, before she could eat real food, before she could even crawl, she had her temper and her laugh. Before we could understand what it was to be sisters, let alone friends, Shelby and I played together, loved each other, shared clothes and a room and our toys. Mom wrote about how she prayed for our relationship and how she hoped we would always be close friends...she couldn't have had any idea how much God would bless those prayers.

Though we battle through hard times, Shelby is my everything. We laugh about how ridiculously dependent we seem to be on one another. How many times have we looked at each other and said, "Um, not to sound like Ruth or anything, but where you go, I will go..." ? Who has a bond like my sister and I? Who else is blessed to have a friend who is half of her heart and forever connected through family? With whom can I share all of myself? Who else knows my entire history as well as she knows her own? Where do I go when I'm tired and I need someone to think for me, to feel for me, to take care of me? I have been given some extremely special friends, girls who mean the world to me, who I would do literally anything for...but Shelby is my baby sister. She has me wrapped around her finger and we belong to each other. There is nothing that can touch our bond.

Shelby is special for a million reasons. I could list the typical ones as easily as I draw my next breath: she's funny, she's beautiful, she's smart, she understands me, we can communicate on a separate level, we practically read each others' minds, she laughs at my sense of humor, she is loyal, she is fiercely protective, she is nurturing. She is all of those things and more, trust me. But what is it about sisterhood that elevates it away from friendship?

Is it the fact that we have grown up together?


The fact that I have spent more sheer hours interlocked with Shelby than anyone else on the planet?

Is it the fact that we were raised to be best friends, that we were told that we would be the maids of honor in our future weddings?

Is it because we have seen each other in all situations, right and wrong, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, throughout our entire lives?


Or is it something else?


Is it all of those things in addition to the fact that we want to be together, that we enjoy one another's company, that there is a special place in our hearts reserved only for each other?

Although I identify and define myself as a writer, I don't think that I can properly describe what it is about Shelby that knits her so intricately into who I am. All that I can say is that no one has the ability to make me as happy as she does. No one makes me as angry, either. No one can push my buttons and hurt me like her, but no one can touch me and make me feel as loved either. I have a lot of friends who I say are "like sisters" to me, and I believe that is true. I'm realizing, though, that sisterhood is something completely different than friendship. It's more extreme, it's complex, it's beautiful, it's painful, it's permanent and it's a gift, one that I hope to give to two individuals one day. Because let's face it -- if God gives me one little girl, He's going to have to give me two. There is no way I would want to raise a daughter without a built-in best friend like Shelby by her side.

Happy Birthday, Sissy. I love you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Farm Day Festivities

As she promised, Julie came into our room and woke Shelby and I up ridiculously early this morning...9:45. I know, I know -- tough life. As my sister and I made it out to the collection of teensy barns that my mother loves so dearly a few minutes later, Jewels started seperating animals.

"Gross," Shelby said as we neared the goat house. "I have served my time in there -- you can clean that." The whole reason we have goats is because Shelby is overly maternal and my mom is weird and just randomly lets her children get farm animals "for 4H." I mean, sesriously, most moms would laugh and drop it if their child asked for goats. Mom just started a list of potential names.

We walked up to where Mom was and she squealed giddily. "Oh goody!" She said. "We're going to have so much fun today!!" Shelby and I looked at each other. That was very doubtful. "Okay," she started, "now I need one of you in here and the other one in the chicken coop."

The words were seriously not even out of her mouth before Shelby all but screamed, "I'M IN HERE!!" You see, despite her previous loathing toward the idea of cleaning up after Buttercup and Westley, nothing is worse than the chicken coop. The goats have redeeming qualities. They're cute and they're stupid and they try to eat everything...but they're not mean. They don't circle around you and crow in a warning tone. They don't barrell around the yard, bobbing their heads like velociraptors. The chickens? They do. They're scary. Sure, they lay eggs so, unlike the goats, they serve an actual purpose...but they are not fun to be around, no matter WHAT my mother says.

So there I was, sweeping out hay and chicken...droppings, for lack of a better term [I said "chicken shit" today and was told to watch my mouth. Woops] when Betty, the worst hen of them all, started to circle.

Here's the thing: Mom insists she knows the difference between her birds. She swears that she can tell them apart and she calls them by name, but I have never bought it. Jewels will put her hands on her hips and looks at those dumb birds and go, "Oh Bernice, stop torturing Edna, she's your sister!!" and "Oh, poor little Gladys, that fox got some of her feathers," and "Maude laid three eggs this week!" but you know that she has no clue. Betty, however, stands apart. She's big, she's got black feathers, and I think that Satan himself might live inside of her from time to time.

She started to waddle around the coop as I was mucking out the stalls, puffing herself up and emiting this low, growing noise. It's a sort of crow, but it is evil; it makes you think she's on the verge of attack. I know that I'm a grown young woman and she's a chicken, but it's still pretty scary. I felt kind of defenseless. So I waited for her to poke her head in the door and then I swept a huge pile of gross hay and, um, chicken byproduct right at her [don't tell Julie]. She squawked and ran away like a linebacker. I laughed derisively. I beat the chicken -- I am Carly, and I defeated the evil hen.

Fortunately for me, Farm Day couldn't last too long; I had an interview at Victoria Secret [the irony kills me -- I spend my morning sweeping and scraping chicken coops and weeding and then I shower and interview at the girliest store in the mall... this is my life] in the early afternoon, so I got to peace out before Shelby did, God rest her soul. At one point, Mom laughed at our disgusted faces and said, "I wonder what sort of hobbies you'll have that your kids hate." I don't know the answer to that...but I can pretty much guarantee you that there will be no hens involved.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer Vacation by the Numbers

Just in case you've wondered what I've been doing since my release from the institution...I mean that beautiful school that I love with my entire heart.

Number of bags to move home: 37. Exaggeration? Only slightly...
Number of days it took to begin to tackle a room invaded by two college aged girls: 2
Number of hours spent unpacking said room: 12. No exaggeration this time, unfortunately.
Number of jobs applied for: 16
Number of interviews: 3
Number of positions offered: 0
Number of consolation dollars my dad gave me to try and make me feel better: $5
Number of friends gone for the summer: Roughly all of them...except for a precious couple. So all of them -- the few brave souls left.
Number of hours in a air-condition-less van to Florida: 23
Number of pina coladas by the pool: 2
Number of guys who asked for my phone number in Florida: 3 and all of the stories are FABULOUS, let me tell you.
Number of said guys who could speak coherent English: 1
Number of hours working on my [ridiculously impressive] tan: countless
Number of times I had to bite my tongue on the way home: it's still healing, if that tells you anything.
Number of van breakdowns: 1...epic.
Number of Alias dvds I've already devoured, due to a huge lack of things to do: 7
Number of books I've read: 3
Number of blogs I've written: 0

So. There it is. Sorry for the absence...I've been too busy wallowing in self-pity and boredom to drag my sorry butt to my Mac [ooh, nice development -- wireless Internet. Meaning I can now waste time online from my bedroom. Loooove it.] and actually do anything productive. I mean, I'm kind of kidding...but only kind of.

But anyway, I'm back now and I have stories and I promise to try to be better about writing. It's not like I have anything else going on, although Julie just informed me that tomorrow is "Farm Day" and it starts at 9:00 AM. Joy.

Until tomorrow, then. I can only imagine the possibilities of shoveling horse manure and cleaning chicken coops with Shelby and Jewels...most likely none of us will be speaking to each other by the end of the day. That's okay, though -- I've become so enmeshed in the world of Sydney Bristow that contact with the real world scares me anyway.

I think I need serious help.

Monday, April 27, 2009

As So It Begins

Well. Here I am.

Again.

After last summer, I promised myself it would be my last summer home. Somehow, I would find a way not to come back. Working up at school, going abroad, hitchhiking across the country -- I did not care, but there was no chance that I would repeat the mind-numbing, soul-crushing pace of last summer.

As always, Jesus had other plans.

Here's the thing: I love making plans. I don't know why, necessarily. Maybe I just love to be in charge. Maybe I just love to tell other people what to do. Maybe it's because I love stories, and I love to tell myself stories, and they inevitably end up being about my future, at which point I'm making the plans to get there. I think away my life.

All through high school, for example, I lived to get to college. I could not wait to get out of this town, to see the world, to experience new things, and meet incredible, fascinating, strange, beautiful people. If you asked me where I was going to go, I would smile smugly and say, "Chicago." I wasn't sure where and I wasn't sure how, but I knew that Chicago was the perfect place for me. Then I found a school, a nice Christian school in the northern part of the city, and I fell in love. The campus oozed that collegiate feel that is most potent at autumn. It was tucked away, like a secret Ivy League, in a diverse little neighborhood that would give me hours of exploration. It was small and it was Christian and it was in Chicago and it was beautiful...but it wasn't right. In my head, though, it was my only option. I had to get to Chicago.

As always, Jesus had other plans.

I ended up at Grand Valley quite on accident. Distracted by my beautiful little Chicago school all fall, I went through the motions of applying elsewhere, all the while confident that I knew where I was going. By winter, I accepted my situation as bleak, and visited GVSU. After the visit, I had a quiet, yet acutely disappointed, feeling that I was going to Grand Valley. By spring, I had begrudgingly accepted the fact. By summer, I felt tinges of excitement just to go to college, albeit in Allendale instead of the big city. By my second night as a student, I could not imagine myself anywhere else.

In my two years there, God has blessed me beyond belief. He has such a specific plan for me there. The idea of having followed my own ideas and thoughts to Chicago is laughable now -- there is nowhere I would rather be than Allendale. So when all of my plans fell through for the summer [and believe me when I say there were a lot of options that I threw around and it was not for lack of trying], I knew that I had to accept it. I knew that I could fight it and struggle and cry and complain and throw general fits ad naseum, or I could trust. I could have faith. I could choose to believe my God when He said that all things work together for good for those who love Him. I could choose to believe my God and know that there bigger plans and a higher purpose for me in Kalamazoo. I wish that I had a more glamorous calling at this point, but I here I am. And I have a purpose and God has a plan and that is all that I need for right now.

One thing needs to change, though: this title. When I realized that I was, in fact, going back home, it popped into my head instantly. Forgive my shameless Mamma Mia plug...but I mean, how can I resist ya?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Growth. Change. Hope.

I live too much in the future. Far too often I find myself daydreaming, telling myself stories of what my life will look like in a month, a year, five years, ten. In my head, I have conversations with my future husband about how our sons will most certainly not wrestle in high school. I take my non-existent eight-year-old to get pedicures and lunch. I plan vacations with my girlfriends where we lie on a beach, sipping margaritas and laughing about our college-age antics. I'm not crazy -- just thoughtful. I love to think about things like this, to try to plan the path that will lead me to this final goal of bliss.

It doesn't scare me; the future has never scared me. I have never looked at my life and said, "This is it. This is as good as it's going to get," because it's just not true. I refuse to think like that. Consequently, I have always been ready to move on to the next chapter. I was ready to leave Heritage, excited for a new start. I was ready to leave high school, to move to college, to begin my life. I was ready to leave my dorm at the end of last year, and I was elated to move into my apartment at the beginning of this one. But now? As my second year of college grinds to a halt and prepares to march off into my past? As my world turns upside down and everything changes yet again? Am I ready for the next chapter now? Am I facing this next part head on, excited and ready? No. Oh no, I am not.

For the first time, the idea of this change terrifies me. It breaks my heart more than anything, but I find myself struck silent in fear. Suddenly, Time is my enemy. I don't have enough of it -- and I don't just mean between finishing my finals and packing and moving home; those are the least of my concerns. I don't have enough Time with the people who own my heart. I haven't had enough Time to get to know them properly, to show them how much I love them, to simply be with them. Relationships feel like they are being ripped away before they even begin. And I'm scared. I'm scared of what this means for my future, for my community...for my life. I'm scared that this summer will be a hinging point for everything. Decisions will be made. Changes will take place. People will grow and leave and turn more and more into who they are supposed to be. It's a beautiful process, really, but painful and terrifying too.

As I peer over the edge of this precipice, though, I realize something. If God waited until His people thought they were ready for the next step, nothing would ever get done and His role would greatly diminish. He has called my friends and I to huge, incredible things in life. Some are heading across oceans to new continents. Some are heading back to the hardest place to go at this point, back to that changeling place called "home." Still some of us have no idea what lies ahead or which direction we are pointing toward. But we all have faith; there is no other option, really. We have faith that the same God who brought us together will bring us back one day as better people, more whole and more in love with Him.

In August, I wrote that this was going to be the best year of my life so far. I had no idea how right I was, for once. This year, God showed me community. He showed me love. He showed me men and women, how we are different, how we both reflect Him, and how we are meant to live together in harmony. He showed me beauty. He showed me friendship. Through these things, He showed me Himself. I have spent the past three days crying over what I'm leaving in my past, but tonight? Tonight I am going to celebrate what is in my future. Tonight I am going to take hope in the fact that I could not have imagined the fullness of my heart a year ago. Tonight I am going to encourage my friends on their journey, wherever that might be. Tonight I am going to take a deep breath and face what is in front of me. It is huge and shapeless and terrifying, but my God stands at the center, beckoning me closer to Him.

I am ready to answer His call. We all are.