Sunday, November 27, 2016

Nothing New

Sin is a big deal.
Sin is scary and ugly and messy. And it's definitely a big deal.
It leaves us scarred and afraid. It leaves us hurt. It leaves us broken. It leaves us uncertain and confused.
Maybe it's someone else's sin -- maybe you grew up being broken by a family that didn't work.
Maybe it's your own sin -- maybe it's something you've hidden from every eye that might spot you and hurt you because you messed up.

But get this:

It's nothing new.

You heard me.

Sin is nothing new.

There is no such thing as a "new sin." God does not look down from heaven at the eighteen-year-old single mom and clap His hands over His mouth because He's never seen that before.

He does not look down at a divorced family in confusion because it's never happened before.

He does not see an abusive parent or an affair or a baby-pre-wedlock as something new.

Your sin is nothing new.

Your sin is not new to God. He's seen it. Trust me, He's seen it all.

Your sin does not surprise Him. It does not throw a wrench in His plans. It does not shock Him.

He is beyond shock. Not only has He seen six or seven thousand years of people committing sin just like you, He saw you doing it before you were around to do it. He knew you would sin and He forgave you for it before it happened. We are blessed to live in 2016, the twenty-first century, two thousand years after God took care of our sin problems. He already made a way. He saw your sin an eternity before you were even alive, and He chose to make a way to forgive that sin.

But it hurts us. Sin hurts. Sin leaves us reeling in broken cycles without forgiveness. We hide it from our parents and pastors and spouses because it hurts. We feel dirty and exposed, but it hurts more to confess.

I heard an analogy this morning in church that compared healing to the pain of dethawing your fingers. Remember being outside in the snow at Christmastime, and snow would fill your boots and your gloves and your snowpants and eventually everything was just numb? And then Mom would call you inside just before frostbite set in, and you'd clutch a mug of hot cocoa or crouch near the heaters to warm up. But warming up hurt! Didn't it? As the blood rushed back to your hands and feet, that was when they hurt the most. Warming up hurt more than being cold. Healing hurts more than living in sin.

But here's the million-dollar-question: if it hurts more to be healed, why not just keep hiding? Isn't that better?

Well, would you rather just stay outside in the snow, waiting for frostbite, waiting for the exhaustion to set in and claim you forever? Or would you like to go inside, and warm up and live, even though it might hurt fiercely for a few moments?

It hurts to confess our sin. We hide it from God, fearing that somehow we will shock Him or ruin His plan for us, or throw Him for a loop and leave Him just as baffled as we are. We fear that He won't be enough to fix us.

What kind of god would that be? A god who is surprised, who can't fix us- honey, that's not God. That's an idol. I can promise you this: He will not be surprised. He will never be unable to fix you.

So how arrogant is that on our part- to think that we can outsin God? To think that we have broken through His grace, that we have used up all of His forgiveness. To think thus is to deny Who He truly is- the God of forgiveness. The God of grace upon grace upon grace upon grace. We are merely mortals, we are small and insignificant. How could we think that we could ever outrun His grace or forgiveness? I would dare to say that that is a bigger hurt against God that whatever sin you could have committed.

Sin may be ugly. Sin may hurt. Sin may leave us spinning out of control and afraid.

But it will never, ever surprise God. No sin is new to Him.

He already knows. He's already been there. He's already made a Way to fix it.

Rest in that.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

Wounded Knee- probably one of the most well-known of the Indian Wars, right up there with Custer’s Last Stand. Somehow I made it to my junior year of high school without ever really researching the Battle of Wounded Knee, but our literature assignment gave me perfect reason and opportunity to knuckle down and get that done. For the assignment, I read Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, one of the most critically acclaimed accounts of “the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century.” (see back cover) After reading it, I think this is a pretty great summary of the book. It truly is a thorough, logical account of the Midwestern and Plains Indians, but it doesn’t lack emotion like so many nonfiction history books these days. I wept for Black Kettle, cheered for young Crazy Horse, shook my fist at Army General after Army General, and felt my soul drop into my shoes at the Battle of Wounded Knee.
One of my favorite details about Bury My Heart was that at the beginning of each chapter, Brown listed a sort of timeline for the rest of the world so that going in you would have an idea of what was happening around you. That helped me connect a lot of events and realize more fully how recent these tragic events are to our nation, which brought the facts home even more. Understanding that 1890 was only 126 years ago was huge for me- this was only what, three generations ago? My grandfather’s parents were probably alive then, and yet I know more about the Revolutionary War and the Black Plague than I do about the Indians’ fight for their homeland and battles like Wounded Knee.
Another thing I loved was the open perspective. Anymore, modern historical literature seems to be under the impression that the whole Western Expansion deal was good guys versus bad guys- and it wasn’t! Nothing is here. It wasn’t ‘angry white men murdering all the Indians for no reason,’ and it wasn’t ‘angry redskins murdering all the white men for no reason.’ Brown took a fair look at men like Custer and Red Cloud for who they were and what they did, not what various prejudices ask us to buy into. The fact is, Indians were just as mean as white men sometimes, and white men were just as innocent as Indians other times. It fascinated me how quickly the Indians learned cruel and disgusting ways of retaliation from the white men, which made me think about how much we teach others in everything we do. Even in war! The white men arrived and fought dirty with the Indians, hacking off their limbs and ravishing their women, and the Indians learned to do it right back the next time.
The book focused mainly on tribes like the Sioux and Cheyennes, the ones who fought a number of the major battles. Even at that, it was a little hard for me to follow which chief was from where and did what with whom, but if I focused hard and flipped back a few pages I could usually figure it out. Being unversed in nonfiction, I was worried about getting bored with just the facts, but Bury My Heart was so much more than just the facts. Brown takes facts and cites a billion sources in the back of the book, bracketing chapters with quotes and heartbreaking paragraphs from Indian lips, but in between he fills the pages with emotion and compels the reader to follow the brutal, tragic tales of tribe after tribe fighting for everything they had and losing anyway- losing everything they had and being sent to barren reservations with no food in drastic conditions. I don’t cry over books and I don’t really get into nonfiction well, but I literally could not put this one down. Brown makes their struggles become more relevant to me than the riots in North Carolina today.
The information is well-ordered, being strictly chronological and generally well-flowing. Brown took a wider focus with Bury My Heart; instead of zeroing in on just the Cheyenne or just the Sioux, he compiled all of their histories into one. This makes it easy to get a lot of information all at once, but that information is a little jumbled up at least in my own head. I know I’ve got a pretty hefty list of deeper research projects right now.
It’s hard to narrow down the book into a few paragraphs of ‘this is what it was about’ because truly, it was about so much. Bury My Heart is about the Indians’ war for their freedom, it’s about the white man and his arrogance at times, it’s a heart-wrenching story of a desperate people struggling to survive while the men in power run amuck over everything the Indians thought they could count on. It’s a story of failed interpretations and miscommunications, as demonstrated by the many treaties that were signed and then turned out to not mean what the chiefs thought they meant at all. It’s almost a picture of why democracy is so hard to pull off- the big centralized government back in Washington may have meant well for the Indians; at least, President Grant was certainly not out to annihilate them, but the government’s good intentions meant nothing to the rugged army generals whose first thoughts were to take out the Indians altogether.
Every chief or warrior comes alive on these pages, making it more than just a list of facts. There’s distinct dialogue between chiefs and generals, similar to a novel but this rings truer than that- this is more satisfying. This is my nation’s history, and it sure isn’t pretty but it’s what made us who we are today.
I’m left with a lot of questions after reading Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. It’s a stellar book, it’s full of information and it’s beautiful to read, but it does something very few modern fiction authors know how to do anymore: it makes you think. Brown will tear your heart out as you watch Black Kettle fight for every inch he has, and ultimately lose everything- but he leaves you with no “this is what was right, this is who was wrong.” In some ways, that may be the best part. Instead of being a shove-it-down-your-throat-until-you-see-it-my-way kind of book, this is a these-are-the-facts-and-I
‘M-going-to-break-your-heart-with-them-but-what-you-do-with-it-is-up-to-you kind of a deal. That’s the kind of empowerment we need more of today; just giving people the honest facts and making them think about it without forcing an angle down their throats.
It took me about a week to read Bury My Heart, and it shouldn’t even have taken that long because I read about three hundred pages in one night. Riddled with cliffhangers and action scenes, the deadline wasn’t the only thing making it impossible for me to put this one down. History is getting so boring these days- people are forgetting how to teach it, but Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee surpassed my expectations of a history book. Instead of being slow and dry and factual, this book came alive and draws readers in by the heartstrings. It’s obvious that Brown cared a lot about his topic, just from the passion and emotion in the writing. If all history books were written like this, I’d wind up with a doctorate and a Ph.D in history.



All sources are from Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. Dee Brown, copyright 1970.

Libbie Custer: Boots and Saddles

I’ve heard it said that behind every strong man is an even stronger woman. This may not be true in every case, and quite frankly, I’m not inclined to believe it’s true very consistently, either -- but the fact remains, in healthy, married life, much of the energy and well-being of one person is derived from the other half of the relationship. I see this in my parents and those around us, and it’s a joy to watch. And make no mistake, I know some pretty strong women. I could write for hours about my mother, or about the lady in my church who’s outlived three husbands and four heart attacks, or the woman next door who finally stopped doing weed and now runs an adorable little business.
But I’m not going to. These women are all strong, at least in the eyes of the twenty-first century. You want to see strong? Let’s take a look at Libbie Custer, wife of General George Armstrong Custer, first woman to travel with a division of the Army, and author of the first reliable history on the General, “Boots and Saddles.”
Going into her book, I was perfectly convinced that General Custer was a cruel, heartless man who deserved his death in the battle of Little Big Horn. About four pages in, I was a little less certain. Libbie begins her tales with her marriage to the General, barely introducing herself before diving into a delightful anecdote wherein the General learned he was to be deployed into the West, plopped Libbie on the dinner table, and proceeded to dance and holler with excitement. It’s obvious from the first few paragraphs just how much Libbie loved her general, and that love truly held out through the entire book -- throughout his entire life.
She reports that their honeymoon was interrupted by a summons to the West just after the wedding, which turned my stomach just a bit, but Libbie didn’t regard her own feelings. While I would have cried and probably been most upset, she joyfully packed up, skipped her honeymoon, and followed him out to the fort. Time after time, she proves how much she loves him as she follows him everywhere, into the depths of no-man’s-land, through multiple-day-blizzards in a shanty, from Fort Lincoln to the Dakotas and chest-deep in unexplored Indian territory. She leaves nothing out in regards to his courage, stamina, and heroism -- but surprisingly, she writes with little regard to her own emotions throughout their travels. She describes the harsh weather, the grueling travel, and the constant battle to be in control and not hinder the men. Libbie was fully aware that women had never traveled with army commands before, and she knew that, being a woman, she was regarded as weaker. But she was determined to keep those fears unfounded, consistently hiding tears or exhaustion or hunger, simply because she knew that she was expected to keep up with the men. At one point, she describes a time when the command was traveling and ran into a band of Indians that had potential to be savage, and Libbie knew right then that she could die. The men were instructed that whoever was watching out for Libbie was to kill her if the group was attacked. This would have spared her from a brutal murder at the hands of the “savages” and also made the men more free to fight, without having to worry about a woman on top of the Indians. Thankfully, Libbie lived, and kept her head even while knowing that if it came to blows, she would probably be the first fatality. She literally handled it all, without complaining or pitying herself, but always with respect and admiration for her general. This inspired and impressed me, and gave me a deeper understanding of just how weak we are today compared to women like Libbie.
Another thing that fascinated me was the way she referred to Custer himself. He was never “George” and very rarely “my husband,” but always “The General” or “General Custer.” She spoke of him very formally, which I understand was the social norm in those days, but the formality still struck me. It’s so obvious that she loved him, but she never called him sweetheart, baby, or hubby like we do today. She never even used his first name. That degree of respect is astonishing, and it’s beautiful to realize that she could show us just how much she adored him without ever saying his first name.
Her love for him was so fairy-tale ridiculous that I worried a bit at the beginning of Boots and Saddles. I worried that it would be a one-way street, that he wouldn’t reciprocate her love, that she was just an infatuated dreamer and he loved his military more than he could ever love her. The whole skipping-the-honeymoon-to-go-to-a-fort thing was really concerning to me. I also knew going in that Custer fathered a child by an Indian woman, which only added to my fears for Libbie.
But those fears were unfounded! She may have been fairy-tale ridiculously in love, but her general cared for her just as much as she did him. At one point, Custer was court-martialed for leaving his regiment to go visit his wife, just because he missed her. There were very few times when she didn’t travel with him, and when she didn’t it was because he feared for her safety (or possibly because he was working out his little affair? I’m not sure, but I’d definitely like to think of him as more gentlemanly than that.). Regardless, the Custers’ love for each other was by no means a one-way street.
Libbie was a beautiful writer, someone other writers today should aspire to equal. However beautiful her writing was, though, she remained rather intensely biased in regards to her husband. She adored him to the point of being unable to see or document any of his faults, for any reason. She backed him up and believed in him no matter what. While this made their love something incredible, it also skewed the American public’s view of George Armstrong Custer until forty or fifty years ago, when historians really started looking into who he was and what really happened at Little Bighorn. As a result, I had decided that Custer was a “bad guy” of the West way before I even heard of Libbie or considered reading her book.
Finishing the book left me with a pile of tissues, ragged nerves, and intensely conflicted opinions. I know that he led his entire regiment to their deaths because he was arrogant and cocky. I know that he straight-up hated Indians and made no bones about massacring them. I also know that he was the perfect gentleman to every woman in his camp. I also know that he adored his wife. I know that she portrayed him as the most beautiful human being to ever walk the face of the planet, and that she completely convinced me to fall head-over-heels for him.
So what’s my final opinion? I don’t have one. That’s uncomfortable for me, because I always have an opinion. I’ve been known to just ramble about a topic for eight minutes until I circle around and decide what my opinion is. But on this one, I’m going to have to sit out. I loved the book, I loved the way Libbie wrote, I loved learning about life on the Western frontier as an army wife, and I loved every detail she packed into that book. I adored it. I’m in the process of hunting down a copy for myself. If she was still alive, I would be chasing her down for an autographed copy.
But my opinion about Custer? Your guess is as good as mine. He’s like an extreme version of all of us. We all have good sides and bad sides, we all have reasons to be adored and reasons to be hated, we all do dumb things and brave things and kind things and mean things. Custer just took that to an outer extreme that most of us don’t reach, thank God.
I'll leave you with this: he was human, just as much as you or me. We can make him a hero for loving his wife and protecting her and fighting for his country and being a gentleman to his fellow American, or we can make him into a demon for massacring hundreds of Indians for the simple reason of hate. But at the end of the day, he's still just another human being. So who am I to call down judgement upon him?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Friendly Reminder...Those Ain't Pants / Anita Renfroe

Okay, girls. School's starting up soon and for some places it's already begun. For me it starts next Monday. And I know we all like to be cute and dress up...and that's cool! I love it. BUT here's just a friendly reminder for y'all, because first of all I love this song and second of all, she makes a great point and I think this is a message that should be more well-know. So here. Friendly reminder. With all due respect. Take it away, Anita!!




Also just FYI, I don't own the video or anything relating to it. I found it on YouTube and hit the share button.

Grateful

So.

It's been like a month. Hi. So much for the faithful blogging.

Anyway.

I got a job, guys, a real job, where they really call me to work on a regular basis, I have a schedule and I do stuff. It's fabulous.

I'm a clerk, a check-out girl, you know, at our local health food store. It's small and quiet and lovely and my feet are killing me because guys, it's my second day and I was not made to stand on my feet for nine hours straight. I'm just not used to that, you know? But it's great. It really is. There're four of us that work there, nine to six Monday through Friday and ten to five on Saturdays. BossMan and Ariel are kind of co-managers (BossMan owns it and Ariel is his right-hand-girl) and Ariel knows everything about every vitamin you can imagine (and some you probably don't want to). Her little brother Edward is a clerk like me, he started like three weeks ago so he knows a little more than me. We sometimes make a good team. We don't fight or anything, but he doesn't think like me at all so when he tries to help me I just get more confused most of the time. But he's a nice kid. We have a lot of fun.

It's a fun job, really. Kind of slow, and we pretty much stand up all day, but it's good. We get a lot of little older ladies coming in for their vitamins and turmeric powder, and a bunch of pregnant ladies looking for prenatal vitamins and teas, and the gluten-free community pretty much lives at the store, so we have a pretty diverse reach. Like I said, it's slow, so if you wanna come by sometime, go for it.

Today, like I said, was my second day and I'm getting a little more comfortable with the cash register and that stuff, which is good. What's not good is that my feet officially hate me. And from five PM to six PM is like the longest hour in the history of the universe because nobody comes in and we're tired and our legs hurt and we just kind of stand there and stare at each other because it's like, "Hi, Edward, I know some stuff about you and you know some stuff about me...but meh, I don't know you that well yet and this is a little awkward still." I'm sure you get how it is.

So it's five thirty and we're sweeping up and dusting the bulk bins and otherwise limping around the store trying not to stab each other accidentally with various cleaning supplies, and then these two ladies come in. One of them's a little older, she's just here for some Magnesium 12 or whatever (I don't remember what she got and if I did, I wouldn't tell you, I'm just fudging on some details), but the other lady is probably eight or nine months pregnant and she's rocking it. Very cute. They bounce around for a bit and bounce back out, and we finish tidying up a little.

Glance at the clock.

5:55.

Cling, cling.

The door swings open and here comes this lady, maybe mid-fifties, looking desperately windblown and frazzled. "Sorry, sorry, I'll be really quick," she says right off the bat, like we're going to kick her out or something.

Ed answers, "Oh, no, you're good. Take your time."

"No, I'm not good, I know how it feels," she hollers over her shoulder as she rockets down the canned foods aisle.

He wanders off to see if she needs help and I hang around the register until she's ready. As she's checking out, the clock hits six o'clock straight up and the door jingles again.

This time it's an older man, also probably in his fifties. Less windblown and less clean-and-friendly-looking. Jeans are too big: longish, tangled dark hair hangs loosely, centered around the bald spot on the back of his head. His too-big T-shirt says Saint Agnes Catholic Church on the front. Kind of a rough-looking fellow, but it's six and the sign says we close at six so he'll probably be quick, plus Edward is right there and BossMan is in the office so I'm not too worried.

"Is there anything in particular I can help you find?" E asks.

The man mutters something under his breath and E heads over to help him. They spend a couple minutes looking around for something - that they didn't find, apparently - and then the man grunts on out the door. Ariel switches off the "Come on in, we're open!" sign and we start packing up.

Side note. Right now, I am absolutely, totally, completely broke. There's like a dollar in change in my left cupholder in the truck. Broke.

And I've got a quarter of a tank of gas.

In our family, we make it a general rule of thumb to not let the gas gauge get below a quarter of a tank, because then your fuel pump has to work a lot harder to get the gas into wherever it goes, and then you blow out your fuel pump and those aren't cheap. So we just keep it a little above a quarter of a tank. It works out well.

Until you're broke and don't get paid till Monday.

But aha! I live six blocks from work. Problem solved: I can walk.

And so I did. I left this morning bright and early and set off walking alone for the first time in sixteen years. It was monumental. I sang a little tune. The birds cheeped in harmony. The dogs...well, they sounded like they were trying to eat me alive. But whatever.

I walked to work, and home for lunch, and back to work. And then at a quarter after six I was ready to walk home for the day.

At eight thirty and noon and one, it's nice and bright outside and there's lots of traffic.

At a quarter after six, it was cloudy and getting kind of dark and looking ominous and the traffic was considerably diminished.

BossMan was worried. "Are you sure you can walk home? You'll be okay? I can give you a ride. It's just barely out of my way, it's six blocks, do you want a ride?"

"Nah, I think I'm okay, but thank you. It's not that far and it isn't really dark out yet."

"Are you sure? If anything happens to you, your dad's gonna kill me."

"I'll be okay. I promise. And he'd kill me first so I think you're safe."

We laughed and I waved bye to Ariel and E and headed out the door, knitting needles in hand.

And I'm strolling down the street, a busier one, and I glance up and there's Rough Guy, from a few minutes ago in the store. He's meandering down the same side of the street as I am, super slowly.

Okay, I tell myself. He's just heading home too, it's okay. I was about half a block behind him at first, which seemed fine.

He glanced over his shoulder and I know he saw me. A few steps later he stopped and stepped into a yard and stared up at the sky.

Up at the sky, down at his shoes, across the street, quick glance at me, back up at the sky.

I guess maybe he lives there, right? That's okay, that's cool, we're okay.

I'm approaching him now, about fifty feet away. And then all of a sudden he jumps back onto the sidewalk and starts walking down the street, same direction as I am.

Weird. That's weird. That's really weird. Somewhere I'd read or seen or heard about a thing where when people were walking through unsafe neighborhoods, sometimes they would hold their phone up to their ear and pretend to be talking on it, because I don't know, then nasty people left them alone or something. At any rate, I didn't think it would hurt, so I pulled out my phone and held it up to my ear and muttered under my breath. Mostly Bible verses, with the occasional, "what the heck is this guy doing, why is he still glancing back at me?!"

Because he was! About every fifteen steps he'd glance back at me, and so I slowed way down and let him get ahead of me farther...and then he'd glance back and slow down too, stopping to kick some leaves off the sidewalk or whatever, and then when I got up to about fifty feet away from him he'd keep walking.

What the heck?

I shrugged and kept walking, as slowly as I could now.

After about two blocks of this, I heard a funny rattling, rumbly sound. Now it was my turn to glance over my shoulder.

And it's E, on his skateboard, trucking down the sidewalk towards me. I turned back around, feeling a little safer because at least I know E. Then I'm just watching Rough Dude and listening to E get closer and closer and slower and slower.

A moment later he's a couple inches to my right, and I said, "Hey, I know you."

"Yuuuup, you do," he answered, slow and calm like always. "My brother works at the gym up here and he's my ride home so I'm heading over there."

"Ah. Gotcha. Cool."

We resumed our stereotypical silence, because seriously if there was a prize for perfect silence, we would win.

"So this guy up here," I started.

"He's weird, kind of creepy," E finished.

"Yeah. He keeps looking back at me, so I slow down to let him get ahead and he slows down and waits for me and he always keeps me within like fifty feet of him." Words tumbled out of my mouth, like they usually do.

"Really weird." E paused for a second, glancing over at me from the skateboard, which he'd slowed down to keep pace with me. *faint eye roll* "This is why BossMan wanted to drive you home," he commented, sort of condescendingly.

"Yeah, well, I get that now. And I'm okay. I have knitting needles," I answered, holding them up as proof.

"Cooool," he drawled.

"No, really, I'm probably very dangerous," I teased.

He chuckled a little and kept his eyes fixed ahead, on Rough Guy.

We were approaching a stoplight with a crosswalk, and Rough Guy was waiting for the "WALK" signal. But he hadn't pushed the button, he was just hanging out. As we got closer, he glanced back to check on me- and hurried back to push the button to cross.

Like he'd been waiting for me or something, and he wasn't expecting E to be with me so he changed his mind.

I don't know what he had in mind- it could have been totally innocent and coincidental, I could be blowing this whole thing out of proportion. What I do know is that he was acting like he was waiting for me to catch up to him at the light, and then he looked back and saw E, and took off across the intersection the second the light changed.

Sounds hokey to me.

E and I crossed the street and he asked if I was turning here. "Yeah, I go left," I answered.

"Okay."

"See you tomorrow, E."

I turned the corner and headed down the street on my own.

A second later I can hear skateboard wheels rattling behind me. "Afraid I'll get lost?" I teased.

"Naaaah." He grinned. "It's kind of on my way, I gotta pick up some stuff for my mom."

"Okay."

Two blocks later my phone rang. It was Momma, calling to see where I was. I told her I'd had to slow down for a creepy dude that was acting hinky. At the corner, I turned again and headed towards my house, still on the phone. I waved bye to E, and he nodded. "See you tomorrow."

By then I could see my mom, standing on the sidewalk, now walking towards me. Rough Guy was out of sight.

Needless to say, I made it the block and a half home without incident.

But yeah. Like I said, I don't know that Rough Guy was planning anything or up to anything or what. But I know that I sure as heck wouldn't have wanted to be coming up on that stoplight alone. And I know that I am so stinking grateful that God sent E after me, and that he stuck with me until I could see my mom.

So thanks, God, for taking care of me today. And thanks, E, for being a gentleman.

Syonara.

Hitting publish in three...two....

One!!!

Scotty

Friday, July 8, 2016

Suddenly Sixteen

I've been counting down to this day all year.

I've been waiting for this day for at least a year and a half; probably longer.

On January 1st, July 8th was a bright light on the horizon, close enough to reach for and still not touch.

On June 10th, it was just off the end of my fingertips, four weeks away and four weeks seemed like eternity.

On July 4th, it was "day after day after day after tomorrow" and "hot dang what's happening right now?!"

On July 7th, it was Ole's #22 in honor of tradition and SW prodding my parents for Scotty Stories.

At 4:57 AM on July 8th, 2016, it was here.

Sixteen was David Meece singing Amor Conquesta Todo on my alarm.

The alarm that I slept through.

Sixteen was waking up at ten-till-nine to the vibrating of SW's 12:30 AM happy birthday text, because she's awesome.

Sixteen was corn flakes for breakfast and that couldn't have been more right.

Sixteen is a yellow plaid summer dress and a blog post at noon. Sixteen is lemon cake later today and maybe a little mascara. Sixteen is piano all morning and sunshine sneaking through my window into the blissfully cool house.

Sixteen is Ninja answering my good morning text with his usual "yo" plus an exclamation point, and that exclamation point is the cutest ever.

Sixteen is pretty sweet, if you ask me.

Sixteen years ago last night, my parents were at Ole's and my mom had a #22. She was a considerably bigger around at that point. Ever since then, it's been tradition to eat at Ole's on July 7th- and it happens that my favorite meal there is the #22. SW let us kidnap her and she hung out at the house until about 9:30.

She sat on the edge of my mostly-unmade bed in the middle of my wildly pink bedroom with heaps of who-knows-what tossed here and there and everywhere and books stashed in unbelievable places- and she looked at me and said, "Scotty, you're coming into yourself."

We talked about theatre and yarn and sewing machines and the phrase "and yet."

We did what we do, we did July 7th our way. And it rocked.

And this is a good day. Sixteen only happens once, and I'm bound and determined to love every second.

I'm not sure what the plan is for the rest of the day, but I'm sure I'll post about it all later.

Clicking publish in 5...4...3...2...

One!!!

Scotty

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Reading List

I'm literally completely out of blog ammunition, so today I'm going to share my current reading list with you guys. Soon I'll have things to tell you, I'm sure. I'm debating posting a novella I'm writing on here in chapters...we'll see about that. Anyway. 

I read pretty much nonstop. I do go through lulls where I just don't read, because I'm busy or don't like any of the books on my shelf or whatever. But for the most part I always have a book of some sort on my person. Right now I've got a big pile of "am reading"s or "will be reading soon"s so I'll try to be concise.

  1. My current favorite right now is called The Book of Names, by D. Barkley Briggs. It's the first of the series Legends of Karac Tor, which I know literally nothing about except that if there are more books like this one I'm just gonna be getting my grubby little mitts on them as soon as I possibly can. I found this copy in my basement the other day while I was cleaning. I'm guessing my mom got it for review a few billion years ago or something like that. It's young adult- I'd recommend it for 12-16 year olds probably. It's sort of fantasy, sort of allegorical, sort of a lot of things but absolutely awesome.
  2. Dad and I are also reading The Complete Works of Francis Schafer: Volume 1. Dad's farther into it than I am, because he started it first. I'm catching up to him though, which is good because I tend to plow through things and then he asks what I remember and "uhhhhhh....there were words, something about....something?" I can understand it fine, but I get in a hurry and just devour the words without chewing on them enough. That's okay for fluffy books, but not recommended for a book about theology. Just sayin.' I recommend this one for...any one with insomnia? Can I say that on here? Don't get me wrong- I don't have anything against ol' Schafer, but he just isn't my style so I'm not really hooked. It's more like I'm reading this one for school or something.
  3. James and The Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. Annie and I are going to see the BFG soon so I'm on a Roald Dahl kick. He is seriously the best. Reading through his books now that I've developed my own style is a lot different than reading them when I was eight, though, and I'm finding that the author in my brain is rewriting a lot of his sentences. I'm a flowery writer and speaker, though, and I like big words and adjectives and vocabulary, and he really was fantastic at writing to children in childrenese, so my mind wants to decorate and I'm learning why I'm not a famous children's author. My style just wouldn't work- they would hate it. I love being able to see other people's styles now and realizing that my way of writing and speaking is certainly not the only way. Anything Roald Dahl is something everyone alive should be reading.
  4. Les Miserables. Yes, by Victor Hugo. The big one. It's a massive book (and I like big books and I cannot lie), and it's taking me a really long time to plod through. I'm not far enough into it to tell you much about it, unfortunately, except that Hugo looooves description. Like me. I'm also learning that the things I like to write are not necessarily the things I like to read. 
  5. My Life With The Walter Boys is one I technically finished a few weeks ago. A friend of mine from Sheridan recommended it (okay, fine, we made a truce- I read Walter Boys and she read the Constitution) and I found it at the library. Looooved it. Not perfect by any means, but it was mostly clean (typical for YA fiction) and very well written. I want more!!! Every once and a while I find a really good YA book and then I'm hooked for like a month. Time for a library run!
  6. I'm still hooked on Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of Tarzan of The Apes- yes, it's a book. It's three books, actually. No kidding! Read it. Best. Thing. Ever.) and my gammy sent me six new books by him- well they're not actually new; one of them is copyright 1927, which makes me super duper happy because old books, and they smell really good- that are in places of honor on my dresser demanding to be read. 
  7. By my bed is my mom's huge collection of Shakespeare, which is by far the most beautiful book in my room (my apologies to That Printer of Udell's- you're gorgeous too, but you're not as fat and you don't sparkle). I also found this one downstairs, and as Mancub seems to be addicted to quoting Shakespeare at SW and I, I want to know what he's talking about. Also I should probably expand my knowledge of Shakespeare anyway...
  8. I just finished The Firm by John Grisham and I loooooved it. All about law and lawyers and the mafia and the FBI and very exciting stuff like that. After reading about a law firm controlled by the mafia, however, I think I'll be staying out of law school. Call me paranoid if you want. I prefer careful or unprepared to take that risk. And kudos to Mr. Grisham for being a believer!
  9. And as always I'm reading a lot of sheet music, mostly by Ludovico Einaudi, who you totally need to look up if you haven't yet. It's like classical contemporary, if that makes sense. He's Italian and if he was younger and less bald I'd be on the first flight to marry him. Maybe that's a little extreme. But you get the picture. He's fantastic.
  10. I'm also reading up on a lot of college information...blah blah blah. College websites are scary! It's like they want to throw all of the information at you but there's no code-cracker to tell you what you need to know. I love that little "Request More Information" button- it's become my best friend. Unfortunately, I've only gotten material from one school so far (I'm sitting in the mailbox impatiently...or maybe not quite, but you know what I mean), so it looks like at this rate I'm headed to Westmont. Come on, people! I'm an information junkie. Literally. I could spend all day researching colleges and still feel unprepared and illiterate. Blah.
I think that tops out my list, so enjoy. Maybe I'll start doing a monthly reading list post and just tell you all about what I'm reading. Some months that list would be reeeaaallllly long, though, so who knows.

That's all I got, Gracelings. Peace out.

Clicking publish in 5...4...3...2...

One!!

Scotty

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bucket List

As promised- my bucket list. It's not very exciting. I'm not a very exciting person.

Or maybe I am, because you're still reading.

I don't know.

Scotty's Bucket List 
(acurate as of May 2016)

  1. Learn to drive. Before Becca. Get my license before Becca. Why? Because I've been last at everything of The Seven. Last to turn 16. Last to go to highschool. I'm really young for my grade so I'm always a little behind. Not being the last one with a license would be a small personal victory.
  2. Take my little Annie (former Sparky and best small friend) to see The BFG because it's our thing. I got her hooked on him and all things Roald Dahl, and we're gonna make the most of it.
  3. Change a tire! I can be independent and tough if I want to. #don'tneednoman
  4. Take a weight-lifting P. E. class at the community college and rock it and be strong. (HUH!)
  5. Go see local theater shows because SW is interning and it's going to be awesome.
  6. Clear two of my general education credits out of the way by the end of the summer (I'm taking Theater Arts and Weight Lifting right now...wow, could I be a little diverse maybe?).
  7. Survive my junior year and being a college freshman simultaneously. Pass all my classes. With a 4.0. Make college friends. Do college stuff. Not grow a huge college ego.
  8. Perform my own set of memorized music for a live audience that's not my church or my family (love you guys). 
  9. Finish tiling my basement floor and make it all pretty down there. I've enlisted Ninja to help with the tiling because he doesn't trust me with a box cutter.
  10. Sing a high school solo. Like actually sing. For people. So they can hear me (shakes nervously). I'm a big girl and I can sing if I want to!!!!!!
  11. Finish a short novel. I've started so, so many and they're all boxed up under my bed. Goal word count...ummmmm.....90,000 words? 
  12. Not be alone all summer. It's the last day of school, summer's officially in gear and I'm sitting here blogging, thinking about how alone I'm going to be. I just don't do things with people. And I've built a bunch of great friendships and I'm kind of terrified that I'll go back to school next year and they'll all be different and busy and barely know who I am because they haven't seen me for three months. So yeah, not being alone is a major goal right now. Getting out and doing things. Calling SW and saying 'hey, I'm going to ______, wanna come?" or something like that. Being inclusive and included. Doing whatever teenagers do in the summer (hopefully not melt...)
  13. Keep my room clean for longer than eight minutes...
  14. Stand on my own two feet and do things that I  want to do just because I want to. Like go fishing and not die, or like I don't know, curl my hair. Or play my music louder than Volume 16 with my windows down so you can hear it outside the car. Or go someplace, with people, whether I'm feeling hermity or not. Be an independent person. Not politically, of course. I haven't lost that many marbles yet.
  15. Actually be hydrated for once in my life? Like drink 50 ounces of water a day for more than two minutes because I don't know, it's smart.
  16. Keep the blog going. I'll aim to hit...100 hits a day for a week straight. That'd be a fair following. And it'll mean I'll have to get out and do things so I'll have stuff to write about. 
And since sixteen is my sixth favorite number, I'm going to quit there. In the fall we'll come back and look over this and see if I've gotten any of it done. Some of it will be for granted, like the classes, because I'm already scheduled to take them. But the 'not being alone' one will take some work, so we'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, peace out, Grace-people. 

Scotty

Chicago: A Photographic Recap

So before we get started here, I'd like to give some credit to my lovely photographers. Without them my posts would have been a lot more bland and you would have seen a lot less. Thanks to them, I got to share with you some of my favorite moments and I think it livened up this blog hugely. Huge thank-you's to...

Elise, for not being afraid to tell me I needed more pictures with people in them and providing great people-y shots.

Renee, for taking pictures of literally everything and letting me paw through them in the dead of night because "guys, I can't find the foot picture from the tower" (major kudos to Elise and Renee for knowing what in the heck I was talking about) and also hugely amazing editing skills.

SongWeaver, for doing the selfie thing with me and remembering eensy teensy details and donating snaps of the in-between moments that I didn't catch, and also for always being around and not letting me be alone.

I think that's all of my picture-donaters. Most of the pictures you'll see below are from them, but I don't remember who sent what on all of them (sorry, chicas. You are loved.). Some of them you might have seen before, but I'm sharing my favorites again anyway because I like to look at them. 

Okay, enough chatter. On with the show!!!



 Renee sent me this one and holy cow, is that not tremendous editing? I love it. This is a shot from the skytower, looking out over whichever lake it was we saw. I love the blend of the city and the lake- it's super super cool and inspiring.



This is almost exactly the same picture, the only difference is the editing. To me this looks more smoky and mysterious, like a ghost-metropolis just begging to be written about.


I literally love this one so much simply because every time I see it, I think the two people are getting engaged. They weren't- I just snapped the picture at a deceptive moment, but it's still sweet. Navy Pier is such a romantic place in the evening.


You've seen this one before, just my best friend kissing my turtle buddy, but I love it. I was going to just sneak a candid-camera shot of her sleeping with him (that sounds bad, it wasn't, I promise- Elise, I can almost hear you laughing from here so just shhh, I'm blogging), but she caught me and turned it into one of the cutest pictures I caught all trip. 


Because this was literally all they did in the bus besides sing about "es caliente, so no mas ropas," it seemed like. Sweet dreams, girlpeeps.


Aaaand here we have...Renee, hugging a ship-steering-wheel-thingy? I wasn't around for this one but Renee looks so tiny compared to the thingy that I just had to share. She rocks the shortness.


Again, I wasn't around for this one but it's trademark girlpeeps so obviously it's going up. Happy faces, amigas! And yes, their hair is all the same. We planned that. Or they planned it. Whatever. More on the hair later.


And this. THIS. I have no idea how I ended up with this but it's from the Chicago Symphonic Hall- it's the whole conglomerate choir and woooow what a picture. This blows my mind. I sang up there. I did that. Wow.


The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini- I didn't think I'd be able to show this to you but somebody sent in a picture of it so here you go! It was absolutely massive in there- and look at the windows! I loved the windows. 


This one I remember- it's courtesy of Elise, 'because you mentioned the Trump building.' Okay but what even is the Trump building? Does he live there? It's huge and it looks really cool and just driving past it sent Mancub and SW into a tizzy, but what is it??


This is just a great shot of the Navy Pier. It was so big- I didn't even know there was a Ferris wheel until I saw the picture. Isn't it cool?


More of Becca and Elise and Renee! This is in the waiting parlor/ballroom at the concert. 


Unfortunately, this is the only shareable shot of the Bean that I have. The others are full of familiar faces (like fifty of them) and I don't have time or willpower to track down everyone and ask permission to post their face on the Wide, Wild Web.


SW and I before the concert, in the hotel because she just suddenly said, "Hey, Scotty, we have to take a picture." And we did. And I'm grateful, because otherwise I wouldn't have any pictures of us before the concert, which isn't something I would have thought I'd have wanted but I think I'd regret not having one.


I don't even know where to begin with this. Just looking at it cracks me up. When I submit his application to the insane asylum, I'm sending this photo as proof. And I'll stand in the courtroom and present it as Exhibit A, and then I'll sit down and say, "No further argument, Your Honor," and the judge will just sit there and go, "Wow." (dramatic pause)

 "And the verdict is?" the bailiff will ask. 

"Guilty on all counts of insanity," the judge will stammer. 

"Sentence?" comes the bailiff.

"Execution! Off with his head!"

And I will giggle in my head, because there's no giggling in a courtroom but I won and finally the world sees that he's criminally insane. 

Okay. That was a little intense. Even for me. Sorry, Mancub. Think of it like the "Just You Wait, 'Enry 'Iggins, Just You Wait" scene from My Fair Lady. 



Here I present to you the sign at the door- isn't it fancy? I love it. The programs looked almost just like that too, only smaller. So professional!


I'm not sure what or where this is, but it's some pretty stinking cool architecture if you ask me. If you want to know what it is, I recommend chasing down Elise or Renee (this probably came from one of them) and asking about it. Also ask for their autograph, because they're awesome.


This is while walking to the skytower- you can see it, it's that tall spiky white thing. Do you see why I loved walking in Chicago so much?


Oh, and did I mention we went to the Roman Coliseum? We totally did. It was a lot smaller than I thought...and the Museum of Science and Industry had it all locked up in a little glass box. Apparently the Romans played with Legos too??? ;)


And then... the Saint Louis Arch was a couple displays away from the Coliseum and apparently my geography is worse than I thought. All this time I thought the Coliseum was in Rome and the Arch was in Saint Louis, and it turns out they're both in Chicago. Whaaat??


Another of my favorites. Pardon my face. I was okay standing on glass 103 stories above the ground, but when they said to lay down I thought I'd really rather just die. Photo credits to Mancub, our semi-unofficial photographer. And kudos to Elise and Renee for being brave enough to actually smile when he said to and not just chomp on their lips while staring blankly into the sky, which was entirely too close and too blue. Y'all are gutsy and that's all I've got to say about that. 


On our way out of Chicago and back to Nowhere. It looks a lot less ominous and huge from the Interstate.
.

Call me crazy, but I absolutely loved our fire-escape view from the hotel. It's just magical- I could write a thousand stories based on this one shot. Renee edited it and honestly she didn't add magic; she just enhanced it and she did really well.


I don't even know why I love this so much. It's just feet. But it makes me so happy. I wish we'd gotten SW in there, but it's still a really cool pic. It's us- it's Mancub and Elise and Renee and me (and yes, that is proper grammar, to say 'me' in there, just trust me on this one) and it makes me happy. I have friends, you guys, I have friends and they're good and nice and they like me and I like them and we do things together. 

I like together.

Together is good.


And there you have our little clan of seven- our BraidSquad, because Renee did braids in everybody's hair on the way into Chicago.

Yes. I'm watching you count braids, and you're coming up with twelve, and that's not good because twelve divided by two equals six and I said there were seven of us.

Easy explanation: it's like at weddings. There's always one guest who isn't in a single picture (if you watch Sherlock you probably remember this). No matter what. He's just not there. You never see him. Who is he? The invisible man? The stalker?

No.

He's the photographer. 

Our semi-unofficial photographer is Number Seven, the one you don't see. Fortunately, he wasn't running around stabbing people with little tiny skewers (if you watch Sherlock, that will make sense. Otherwise...I'm sorry. Don't be too creeped out.).

The photographer was also the only BraidSquad member who didn't have braids in, for obvious reasons of A) dudes in braids is just a baaaad idea, and B) not enough hair to braid. 

But there were seven of us- and I got to be one of the seven. I think I usually got counted as 5. Thanks to Elise and Mancub for counting us and keeping track of us and not losing me. Thanks to Renee for being a safe place and cheering us up and always being real. Thanks to SW for not letting me be alone or cry too hard for too long. 

And thanks to you, for reading and joining us while we took Chicago by storm.

This concludes Scotty's Adventures With The Seven: Chicago.

Hitting publish in 5...4...3...2..

One!!!!

Scotty

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Taking Chicago By Storm: The Final Stretch

Chicago 2016 was drawing rapidly to a close and my heart was torn. These people had become my family- I'd made connections and become a part of their lives for a moment. I'd built relationships stronger, forged new ones, bonded with people and learned to appreciate company more than I had before. I'd learned the importance of knowing what you can and can't handle. Of leaning on other people and not being afraid to be weak. Of doing things just for the heck of it. Of laughing and being happy and real. 

Of being little and letting people see that you're not strong enough and need help.

I sat sideways in that seatbelt-less bus and stretched my legs and stared out the window and listened to the low hum of voices running under Hairspray on the speakers. Swiveling my head I could see them- my people, my semi-family, the ones I'd depended on for anything I couldn't do alone for almost a week. 

Es caliente, so no mas ropas, my brain chanted, and I shut my eyes, remembering the drive up when I was so scared and uncomfortable and uncertain. The museum played in my head, stumbling and wobbling around and listening to Mancub and SW discuss this and that. The hotel, trying to sleep while SW cuddled, or Renee and Elise singing Cruella DeVille while waiting for room checks. Walking here and there and everywhere and not getting lost because there were people there who took care of me. 

Being taken care of. Not having to be alone. Not being abandoned.

That's what I remembered most.

And I sat on the bus and I was alone.

Because we were going home, and I wasn't Scotty of The Seven anymore. I was just Scotty. The sometimes-high schooler. The one that missed everything. The clueless one. The loner who didn't speak and just sort of hovered on the edge.

I wasn't part of them anymore. They all had their own lives and their own stories and I envied them for that because their stories all mixed together like spaghetti and I just wasn't there.

So we would go home, and again I would be alone and hover in the background and everything would go back to the way it was.

And I didn't want that. I wanted anything but that. I wanted to be home, with Squirt and Momma and Dad and Ninja, but I didn't want to be alone again. 

For four days, I had people. Elise and Mancub were always protecting and looking after and making sure we were all present and safe (when they weren't murdering each other, anyway). Renee was always including and cheering and being comfortable. SW was always listening and encouraging and rubbing tired shoulders and reminding me that I was part of this group because they wanted me and people weren't all evil. They were all there, all the time, and they cared. We were a family because we were all sort of alone without our families so we built our own. And it worked. It was a little dysfunctional and way more moody than any family I've ever seen, but it worked. "It was little and broken, but it was good." It was people, all of us caring about all of us (most of the time...) and including everyone and knowing everyone and looking out for everyone.

It was good to have people.

It is not good for man to be alone (or woman).

We need people. I need people (ouch). And the thought of losing that family atmosphere of being around my people for four days straight terrified me. I didn't want to be Fifth-Wheel Scotty anymore.

So I sat on the bus and listened to Hairspray and felt lonelier than I had when we left Nowhere, because it hurts a lot more to lose something after you know you love it.

Raindrops splatted on the windshield and voices murmured about snow and Kimball and Interstate 80 and shhhhh, we're trying to listen. SW snuggled Richie and we rolled closer to Nowhere and closer to Alone. Elise and Renee chatted and giggled and reminisced and Mancub howled about somebody's spilt Dr. Pepper.

I was going home.

Part of me was oh so ready. I don't think on the same level as high schoolers. It's a homeschool thing. Stick me in a room of toddlers and I can babysit the crap out of them. Put me in a room full of adults and it's the most natural thing in the world for me- I can converse and socialize no problem and I'm comfortable.

Squish me on a bus full of fifty of my peers and I have absolutely no idea what to do. I don't know what to talk about or how to act or what to say or anything. So I go into childish armadillo mode and act like I'm four years old and absolutely stupid. Being post-high school in every subject in eighth grade didn't score me any points in the socializing-with-peers department, for sure.

So I was ready to be around people that I could converse with and be myself around.

But I wasn't ready to be alone again either. Most of the time I spend out and about is spent in the high school, with other high-schoolers. And I'd established a place in their pride, I'd made a spot for myself among them that I was about to lose because I'm not in touch with them.

So part of me wanted to stay in Chicago for weeks and weeks and weeks and just be part of their lion's pride and have a place. I wanted to walk to the Sears Tower every morning at nine and take a picture out of every window. I wanted to walk with them. I wanted to walk to Chipotle and eat burritos for lunch with them. I wanted to browse a museum and laugh about being absolutely smashed with them. I wanted to dash up and down the pier and sing about my long list of ex-lovers with them.

Because yeah, I have people. I have grown-up people.

But sometimes it's okay to need people your own age, I think. To need interaction with your peers. Because that's what pushes me the most. That's what challenges me to be who I really am. That's how I grow into myself.

At about six-thirty we pulled into York, which I'm sure is a nice town but I've never been there. I think it's biggish. Not compared to Omaha or Lincoln probably, but compared to Nowhere I think it's kinda big. They have a Wendy's.

We were threatening mutiny if we ate Wendy's again.

They also have a Runza.

We stopped there because fooooood. 

And they have salad. I like the Southwestern because it's a little spicy and I like to pretend I like spicy foods, but they also have a newer one- Chicken Bacon Ranch or something like that, and I like Ranch and chicken and bacon so I figured hey, live a little. Try a new salad (wow, really livin' dangerously there, Scotty.).

Again I ordered last because it was becoming the comfortable thing to do (also I was having a minor panic attack because apparently life was scary or something). If you order last you get decide where you sit and who you sit with and if you want to sit alone then go for it.

Except.

Runza was smaller than Wendy's.

There were no empty tables.

And I didn't want to be alone. I didn't want to invite myself to a table, either- I wanted to be wanted. I wanted someone to not want me to be alone.

Everyone was busy. Talking and interacting and doing what I couldn't do because I couldn't get out of my own head.

And the workers weren't quite as on-the-ball, either. Their system worked okay for small groups, but when we unloaded fifty-four people on their tiny restaurant I'm pretty sure the waitress's blood froze completely solid. I'd have been scared too, for the record. I freeze up when I need to think fast. Works real well, let me tell you.

But I'm not telling you about that. I'm telling you about the food and the eating and the being alone.

It took them forever to get everything sorted out and start handing out food, and then they had a really wacky way of doing it. Say we ordered eight medium fries, they'd bring out a tray of eight medium fries and you just grabbed what was yours, rather than keeping all the orders together. It was kind of complicated and ominous for a while, especially with raindrops splatting outside and purple clouds billowing on the horizon. Plus, we were in York- York, at the opposite end of the state, at six thirty and we were supposed to be home by ten thirty. Four hours. 

My aunt lives in Kearney, which is between York and Nowhere but considerably closer to York, and whenever we drive down to see her it takes us five hours.

We were so not gonna be home at ten thirty.

And I needed to sit and think about this- or rather, think about how late it would be getting home because the best I could figure we still had eight hours to go AT LEAST and that put us in Nowhere at about four thirty Monday morning. 

Which meant another night on the bus. 

Which I didn't altogether hate because it was pretty fun all in all, but I didn't feel like getting yelled at for not falling asleep on the bus again. But see it didn't feel safe. There were people on that bus that I still didn't know. There were possibly mean people who would do mean things like Sharpie on my face or worse than that and I didn't want to think about worse than that, so in order to avoid the Worse Things, it made sense to just stay awake so no problems would arise. Nobody would mess with me if I was awake.

I was having an almost-full scale meltdown when Mancub and SW waved me over. Specifically, SW waved me over because she knows my panic faces and apparently I didn't look calm. I sat and they talked and I wanted desperately to converse and be a part of it because this was my last chance but I couldn't because if I opened my mouth horrible things would come out. Like about how freaking lonely I was and how much I didn't want to go home and be alone again, or like how incredible it was to have friends and be a part of things and how wonderful it was that they were my friends. Or how distressed I was about sleeping on the bus because Bad Things might happen and I had to stay awake but no one would understand that.

So I sat, quietly, and listened to them talk and that was better because then I just sort of fed off of their calm and their chill became my chill and I was okay.

Okay. But still lonely, because I couldn't get out of my head and the little voice in there kept saying, "they don't really want you here; they just felt bad because you're like the stray puppy that nobody wants or knows what to do with so they took you in for now. you annoy them. you're too dramatic and selfish. get over yourself. walk away. stop bothering them." (and yes, the voices in my head have terrible capitalization skills. It's part of what makes them so terrible)

So I sat, and they talked, and then I started rambling and panicking about Worse Things happening and then Mancub was yelling at me for being afraid and self-conscious and careful and that was worse and I didn't know how to respond. Somewhere along the line we piled back on the bus but I was numb and I don't really remember that part. We finished Finding Nemo (wait, we watched that? Apparently. I don't know.) and then it was Jurassic Park and all of a sudden Mancub was leaning on the back of my seat and talking over me to SW and she was shushing and arguing and he was too close and getting agitated and his voice rose and sounded violent and I kept laughing because he and SW were. And for a while we were okay and it was the three of us against the dinosaurs or something, and he said he'd tell me when to close my eyes- like I was a baby not quite brave enough to handle humans being devoured by dinosaurs, and that wasn't too far wrong. 

But it was us. We were back, like a revival and I had people again and we chattered back and forth because I was okay again and it was safe. It was pouring rain outside but it was safe inside and I wished we could stay that way for always, safe and together and not fighting.

Somewhere along the line he drifted off to Somewhere Else and it was just SW and I, and then she fell asleep and then everyone was sleeping almost, except me, and there was peace and quiet until- hey, gas station and we're two hours from home so everybody go pee real quick and then we'll be home. We passed around a baggie to tip the drivers, who deserved so much more than they got because they rocked it, and SW slept the whole time and Mancub was back on the floor and it was almost just like on the way out of town, except that I wasn't stuck under a seat and I was on way less of an emotional high.

There was something about the route we took- we drove out of the storm, and it was pretty dry when we got to Nowhere, but my mom messaged me and said to text Daddy when we got to Kimball, I think it was. And I asked what if we don't go through Kimball because I'm terrible with directions and what if I miss a cue and have to sleep at the school or something terrible (because apparently I couldn't wake up my parents, and I sure couldn't just hitch a ride with SW or even walk the mile to my house from Nowhere High, right, okay I was tired, sorry). So then it was 'text when you get to Bridgeport,' I think. One of those blippy little towns. Somewhere.

And it was eleven thirty and wow, our drivers must have timewarped us or something because no way could we be here now, and then I was falling asleep and 'can't fall asleep, you'll fall out of your seat and that would hurt and you'd probably kill yourself, you klutz' so I jerked myself awake and watched the road for a while, and then Nowhere's lights were peeping at me over each hill.

Home.

We pulled into the school parking lot at close to midnight, and I've seen few sights as sweet as my Daddy and Squirt waiting for me in the Trail Blazer as soon as I stumbled off the bus.

I wish I'd said good-byes, or bothered to talk to somebody or say something or act friendly, but I didn't. I picked up my stuff from our drivers, hugged Mr Q (who knows my parents and looked after me the whole trip), and booked it for the truck. Daddy and I piled my things in the back- and then home.

Home.

Home, to my pink roses and lilies and Seuss the stuffed Moose and my own pillows and my igloo pile of blankets, and my home with my people and my momma and my daddy and my sister, and that was what I wanted at midnight on April 17th (18th? However that works.) and I don't care who knows it. 

Chicago was an experience I'll never forget, and I wouldn't trade one second of it. I established some relationships I'll never outgrow, and I laughed with people I never thought I'd speak to, and I roomed with three of my best friends in the whole wide world. I learned a lot about how much I can handle emotionally and how people work up close. I saw a German sub and stood 103 stories above the ground and stared down at little tiny ant-people driving little tiny matchbox cars and I saw where Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini died and I stood onstage in the Chicago  Symphonic Hall and sang at the top of my lungs for all the world to hear. Those are all the facts and the things we did that I might never be able to do again.

But I won't remember the submarine or the Symphonic Hall when I'm ninety-five. I won't remember standing on top of the world and taking pictures of my feet over Chicago. I won't remember the shrine or the Bean or arguing politics on our way there. 

I'll remember the emotions, because that's how my mind works.

And most of the emotions on this trip were some of the best of my life thus far. We stormed Chicago and I loved every second of it. But I'm so, so glad to be home. Back to the routine and my people and the alone time. I still think it would rock to go on tour with those my peeps, but for now, I've got my sights set on an Associates Degree from our community college by the time I graduate high school. Touring with SW and Elise and Renee and Tink and Holly and Mancub and Pumba and everyone is definitely on my bucket list, however. Maybe next I'll post my bucket list. Who knows? Anything can happen. 

In closing, here's one of my favorite snaps from the trip. Peace out, Chicago. 



So that's two. Sorry. This really only scratches the surface of my 'favorites.' I'm planning a Chicago: In Pictures post soon to get all the shots I haven't shown you and some that I maybe already have but love enough to share again. Stay tuned, peeps.

Hitting post in 5...4...3...2...

One!!

Scotty