Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 30: What I Love About Life Right Now

Whew!  We made it through the challenge.  I, unfortunately, did skip 3 days which was unintentional, but this is the most I've blogged consistently and I enjoyed it.  Thanks Katie for setting up everything - especially the link up.

Okay, on to the question.  Well, if you've been following this blog for awhile you probably know that I am not loving life right now.  Dude's death has been the most life altering and tragic event of my entire life.  Getting into law school (Not in yet.  I'll know in August) has been an unnecessary struggle that has brought out determination, persistence, and perseverance in me that I never knew I had.  My parents' health issues have forced me to take control of emergency situations and remain calm and stable.  All of these unfortunate situations have brought out a different part of me.  More strength.  More resilience.  More confidence.  More determination.  More boldness.  More persistence and perseverance.  More love.  More gratitude.  More prayer.  More support from my friends and my family -- even from my prospective law schools.

Life is not the brightest these days.  It's not all that smooth.  But... I am learning about myself.  I am pushing myself beyond my limits.  I am leaning on God.  I am determined not to give up on anything.  And all of those are good things.  Do I love that all of these scary and tragic situations have brought me to this place?  Nope.  But, I am making the most of them and becoming a better me.  That's something to love. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 29: My Favorite Performance or Show

First of all, I apologize for skipping yesterday. We had terrible thunderstorms in DC and the power was knocked out until about an hour ago.  It turns out our neighborhood power outage was caused by a tree in my parents' front yard.  Ooops!  It's technically not our fault because the city is expected to maintain this tree, but anyway, we are real popular in the neighborhood right now.  Not!

Anyway, so my picking my favorite show or performance is very difficult.  I think the first concert I went to was Celine Dion in seventh grade.  But my parents also tell stories of taking me to see orchestras and my pretending to be the conductor throughout the performance.  I have always loved music from a very early age.

As a gift to my parents (and myself) I get them a subscription to the Kennedy Center, our main performing arts center in DC.  This means we get to see about 6 or 7 shows a year.  Just last week in fact, we went to see "Anything Goes".  It was really fantastic, but not my favorite show.  I think my favorite show might be "Memphis".  "Memphis" is based on the story of this white DJ, Dewey, who was one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s.  I grew up loving Motown and am the daughter of a white mother and black father, so that might be one reason why I love this show.  It did win a Tony for Best Musical in 2010, so obviously, I am not the only one who enjoys this show.  I have seen it on Broadway as well as in DC and I'd see it again.

If you get the opportunity, check this out.  You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 27: My Pets

Sorry to post so late.  I am sick and have a headache the size of Texas.  Being sick in the summer is really no fun, but I am at my parents' house.  That means our dogs are the best nurses. 

We have two dogs: a four year old Westie named Zoe and a 2 year old Wired Fox Terrier named Phoebe.  Zoe has shown me that I am going to be an overprotective mother.  I found Zoe online and had to do all of this research to make sure she was from a legitimate breeder and not a puppy mill.  I don't think I've ever done so much research in my life.  I felt like I was playing detective trying to find out all of the facts.  It turns out she was legit, so I made plans to bring her to DC from Kansas.  That was quite a trip in itself!

In order to bring Zoe to the East Coast, I had to purchase a ticket in Pet Class on Delta.  She had quite the trip.  She left her birth city and drove 3 hours to get to the airport.  Then she flew from Kansas City to Dallas.  Zoe had a two hour layover in Dallas (I was so nervous they'd forget to put her on the plane!), and then embarked on the last leg to DC.  When she got to DC, we met her in baggage claim.  One of the airline employees brought her out and she was perfect -- happy, healthy, and clean.  We weren't sure what to name her out of three names.  Upon presenting the names to the baggage handler, he said "She looks like a Zoe!"  He was right and that was her name.

Zoe is a beautiful dog with a laid back personality.  I think that's how she survived the plane ride so well.

Phoebe is a different story.  Phoebe originally lived across the street from my parents.  She was the "daughter" of a gay couple, Mike and Gerardo.  Mike flew to Chicago and back in one day to get Phoebe.  Mike and Gerardo worked everyday, so my mom would go and get Phoebe to play with Zoe during the day.  One day, they didn't call to come and get her and Phoebe stayed at our house for 5 days!!  Dad decided to walk her across the street (home) and told them that if they didn't have time to take care of her, we would take her!  They thought about it for a day or two and then she officially became ours.  This was huge news because my dad's motto was always "One wife.  One daughter.  One dog. " Now he has two dogs!  As far as I know, he doesn't have two wives or daughters. :)

Phoebe is wild and crazy and spunky.  She is the opposite of Zoe.  The drive each other crazy and are a joy to us.  We are so happy to have both of them as a part of our family.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 25: My Grief Playlist

Dealing with Dude's death has been hard -- unbearable, at times.  Music has helped a lot.  Oftentimes, songs have said the words that I can't even begin to speak. Here is a list of my favorites:
  • I Think Of You - Easton Corbin
  • Why - Rascal Flatts
  • One Sweet Day - Mariah Carey
  • Bye Bye - Mariah Carey
  • Never Forget You - Mariah Carey
  • I Look To You - Whitney Houston
  • I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston
  • When I Look To The Sky - Train
  • Everything Falls Apart - Fee
  • Lovin' You Is Fun - Easton Corbin
  • The Hurt and the Healer - MercyMe
  • Save a Place for Me - Matthew West
  • Before the Morning - Josh Wilson
  • Over You - Miranda Lambert
  • Didn't We Almost Have It All - Whitney Houston
  • Long Way Home - Steven Curtis Chapman
  • My Heart Will Go On - Celine Dion (I used to hate this song. Not anymore.)
  • Bridge Over Troubled Waters - Various artists
  • See you Again - Carrie Underwood
  • Rainin' You - Brad Paisley
  • Can't Say Goodbye - Josh Gracin
Do you have any favorites?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 24: The Town I Live In

I'm not trying to brag, but I honestly feel so blessed to live in the town I live in.  I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia and still live here today.  Alexandria is about 15 minutes outside of Washington, DC.  I think it is one of the best places to raise a family.  Alexandria has a small town feel, but it is right outside of the Nation's capital with all of it's history, culture, political power and diversity.

Old Town Alexandria, where I live, is not without history of it's own.  It was founded in 1749 and was the home of George Washington and Robert E. Lee, Jim Morrison and Mama Cass.  Old Town is on the water and served as one of the ten busiest ports in America trading tobacco.  I learned this little fact when I googled interesting facts about Alexandria for this post.  But, my how times have changed, because now all of the restaurants in Alexandria are smoke free!  Thank goodness!

Old Town is full of restaurants and shops.  I can sometimes get in big trouble because I can walk to all of the stores I want to shop at.  There are a mix of boutiques and mainstream stores like Loft, Anthropologie, Francesca's, Banana Republic, and Gap.  We also have three ice cream shops and three cupcake places.  Let's just say I can come home a little heavier with a lighter wallet :) 

Being that Old Town is historic, the town is supposedly haunted.  We have two ghost tours that you can take while you are here.  Apparently, someone found a head in the alley right by my condo many years ago.  On Halloween, people go and look for the "ghost" of the head.  Weird.  Creepy.  I don't do it.  I've never seen anyone do it.  I don't want to know.

If ever in the DC area, you shop hop over the river to Old Town, Alexandria.  You'll have a great time.  Let me know you're here and I'll stop by to say hi!
I  need to take more photos of my town.  I don't have any really.  I tried to download off of the internet and it wasn't working.  But trust me, Old Town is beautiful.  DC is beautiful.  You should come visit!

Day 23: Videos I Love

I've realized one thing during this blog challenge.  I don't use the internet to its full capacity.  There's no way I can even think of naming a video I love on YouTube.  I don't use it.  At all really.  I'm missing out I'm sure.  I also wonder why I don't use it.  I'm a big pop culture fan, so you'd think it'd be right up my alley.  But, no.  I guess I'll learn from the other bloggers participating in this challenge.  I'll check out the videos they post.  But, man!  I'd better get with the program!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day 22: Website I Enjoy or Care About

I am not a big internet surfer.  I check Facebook religiously.   I catch up on my favorite blogs on bloglovin'.  I don't have a website that I repeatedly go back to for a pick me up or something of substance.  Throughout the day, I'll check CNN, the weather, cruise travel websites for good deals on my next adventure.  But, I don't have any favorites.  I think it is because I have a love hate relationship with the internet.  I love that so much information is at my fingertips and that it is such an incredible communication device in itself.  What I hate is that it can be a time waster and  suck the life right out of you.  So, I don't have a favorite.  Is that lame?  I don't know, but I today I don't care.  It is beautiful outside, so I am going to step away from the computer and go sit at the pool. 

Enjoy the day!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 20: Nicknames

OK, I missed Day 19 "What I miss".  Apparently, I took that quite literally and just missed blogging the whole day!  HA! Sorry.

Today's prompt is nicknames.  Much to my mom's dismay, I have a ton of nicknames.  I think she is the only one who calls me Jessica.  More times than not, I will introduce myself as Jessica, but it never sticks these days.  You can almost tell when a person met me based on what they call me.  My pre-college friends usually refer to me as Jessica.  My friends from college and after call me Jess.

True story: A friend of mine from college called my parents land line when I was home on break.  Why they didn't call my cell phone, I don't know.  But, anyway.  They call my parents' house phone.  Mom picks up the phone.

"Hi, Is Jess there?"
"Hmmmm who?"
"Oh yeah, hold on"

My mom wasn't trying to be rude, Jess just doesn't compute in her mind.  She truly didn't know who Jess was!  She's not as bad now, but she says she can't call me Jess. She named me Jessica and that is what she will always call me.  She tries Jess and just gets tripped up and ends up adding the -ica at the end!

My dad most often calls me Jessica or JB.  He doesn't call me Jess either.  Can't do it.

One nickname I can't stand is Jessie.  I just do not like to be called Jessie.  I know plenty of Jessicas that embrace this nickname.  Not me.  No.  Never.

Other nicknames include Spark (my former boss and some of my colleagues call me this), Little B, Ethel (my best friend and I are both named Jessica, we loved "I Love Lucy" when we were young.  She is Lucy.  I am Ethel.), J-Bigs, Bigby, Blair, Crutchie, and I am sure there are a few more.

Bottom line: I rarely get called by my given name -- unless you are my mom!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 18: The Professional Bridesmaid

I feel like a professional bridesmaid.  I have been a bridesmaid 10 times.  I consider this a compliment because the bride doesn't ask just anyone to be in her wedding.  She asks only those closest to her.  The number of colored dresses that hang in my closet are a testament to my ability to maintain friendships.  I actually "pride" myself on this.  My friends are as important to me as my family, so I put forth great effort in my friendships.  I am only child, so my friends truly are like my brothers and sisters.

I began my job as a bridesmaid at age 7.  I started out as flower girl, but the wedding took over a year to plan, so I was promoted from flower girl to junior bridesmaid.  I was only 7, but I can pretty much tell you every detail of this wedding, and to this day, it remains the best one I've ever attended.  I'm hoping my own wedding will dethrone it, but for now, hands down, the best!  I was a bridesmaid in my aunt's wedding when I was a tween, and then my career as a professional bridesmaid really took off in my 20s.  I've even been kicked out of a wedding!  That's a story for another day.

My duties as a professional bridesmaid have included selecting the engagement ring -- talk about nerve wracking, throwing the engagement party, the bridal shower, the bachelorette party, shielding the bride from drama between bridesmaids, supporting the bride when she asks one of her maids not to attend the wedding, calming the nerves of the bride, arguing with the wedding planner, holding up the dress so the bride could go to the bathroom, wiping away tears, signing the marriage license, spending hours cutting photos and stuffing them into photo coasters (never again!), putting together scrapbooks, decorating the rehearsal dinner space, wearing unattractive dresses, planning special surprises just for the bride, and all in all, doing whatever the bride wants.  The bride who kicked me out of her wedding would disagree with this statement, but I take my bridesmaid/maid of honor duties very seriously.  
I enjoy being a bridesmaid, but look forward to the day I am the one in the white dress!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 17: What I Am Looking Forward To

I am most looking forward to looking like this again.
I was this thin six years ago.  Then I went to Italy for 3 weeks and had more than one gelato a day.  Then I had two major surgeries with no weight bearing for eight weeks.  Then my best friend passed away and I turned to "grief eats" to get me through some of the toughest times.  And wine.  Wine would help me sleep when I couldn't even think about drifting into sweet dreams.  And then. And then. And then.  The excuses could go on and on, but excuses don't help you shed those pounds.

I only have 10 pounds to lose, but why does it always seem like it is so tough to lose the last 10 pounds?!  It doesn't help that I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas!!  
If only I could follow this advice, I'd be in great shape.  I am working on it, but if you have any tips, please share!  I can use all of the help I can get.  I'm going to work really hard to drop those 10 pounds and keep them off for good.  I look forward to feeling my best once again!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 16: Something I am OCD about

When people put something other than cups in car cup holders I go crazy.  I get so agitated over this.  Cup holders are for cups.  They are not for cell phones, spare keys, jewelry, sunglasses, gum, trash or anything else.  Cups and cups only. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day 15: My Dream House

If I had to pick any house as my dream house, I would pick this one:
This is the house used in the movie Father of the Bride (my favorite) and I love the inside of it, assuming the inside of the house in the movie is, indeed, the inside of this house.  I also love the outside of it.  It just looks like a home to me.  One filled with warmth, love, and heartfelt memories.  If it is my dream home, though, there are a few things I would change.  To make it my dream home, I would
  • move it to the East Coast.  I am just not a California girl.
  • put it in or close to a big city (Washington, DC.  I'd probably place it in Alexandria, VA)
  • put it on the river.  I absolutely love the water, so my dream house would definitely be on the water.
If I could then fill this house with a loving and faithful husband, a playful puppy or two, and some healthy and happy children....oh what a dream that would be!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Day 14: A Photo I Love

When pondering this question, this photo immediately came to mind.  This is one of my favorite photos ever.  It’s a little blurry, but just ignore that.

I simultaneously love and am totally freaked out by this photo.

I am an only child.

He is not my brother.

He is not my cousin.

He is not my parents’ long lost son.

He is not, in the least bit, related to me.

Joseph is a friend of mine.

But, we undoubtedly look like we could be brother and sister.

It freaks us out.

It freaks our families out.

Joseph has a sister.  She doesn’t look anything like me.

I always wanted an older brother.

I love this photo.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day 13: My Life Goals

I had trouble writing this post.  At first, I was just going to list my life goals.  The list includes, going to law school, having a happy and lifelong marriage, mothering children, making a difference in the world, being an inspiration to someone….
Then I realized some of these are completely out of my control. I want to make goals that I know are achievable.  Consequently, my life goals are to be content in my circumstances and to trust God.

I have learned over the last year that life can change in an instant.  I have learned that you can go from contentment to deep sorrow in a matter of seconds.  I have learned to appreciate the little things in life.  I have learned that sometimes you can do your best and still feel like you’ve failed. I have learned that I am not in control.

This past year has been full of sadness and struggle.  Not just with the death of my very best friend, but with my parents’ health issues, and my ongoing law school saga.  I’d think my life would make a pretty good soap opera these days.  Just when things start to look up, something else happens and I just can’t seem to get ahead.  It’s been rough.  It’s been devastating.  It’s been full of grief.  It’s been ever changing.  But, the one constant is that

God has been present amidst it all.

I never want to forget that.

I haven’t been happy.  I am ready to let this grief and happiness co-mingle.  I am ready for bright, sunny days – literally and figuratively.  I also haven’t trusted God the way I should.  I have been angry at Him.  Frustrated.  Sad.  Confused. Worried.  But He is still there.

So, my life goal is to be content and to trust in Him.  I have a lot of work to do in this area, but that’s OK.  I am not expected to be there right now.  That’s why it is called a goal and not an accomplishment.

Not THE Answer But It Helps

Dude's death will never make sense.  At times, I feel like I failed.  I know I shouldn't feel that way.  I know it wasn't my fault.  I don't blame myself.  But I do wonder.  I wonder why God did not stop it from happening.  I wonder what Dude was thinking that day.  I wonder at what exact moment he made the decision.  I wonder why none of us closest to him could get through to him and show him life is/was worth living.  I wonder how mental illness and depression can just suck the life out of one of University of Richmond's most eligible bachelors.  How such a bright light in the world can be completely enveloped in darkness - a darkness I hope to never understand. 

Those of us closest to Dude have sat around trying to understand.  We ask questions of each other hoping that someone has the million dollar answer.  We've poured over the reports from the doctors and the autopsy.  We go back and forth, but I liken it to being on a seesaw.  You keep moving up and down, but you never truly go anywhere.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard I/we try, we will never know the real answer.  I am not even sure if Dude would know the true reason he did what he did.  He might, but I won't find out til I get to heaven.  And, at that point, I won't even care!  I'll just be so excited to see him again.

I've done a lot of grief work over the last 14 months.  It's been absolutely essential to my grief journey.  No matter how hard I work, I can't bring him back.  I can't truly understand why this happened.  But, I do have to and want to move forward.  To honor him.  To honor God.  To live the life laid out before me. 

For the most part, I've accepted that this has happened.  I don't like it, but that doesn't change a thing.  I will always struggle with this to some degree.  But, every once and awhile, I find something that provides a little solace. 
“I had tried years earlier to kill myself, and nearly died in the attempt, but did not consider it either a selfish or a not-selfish thing to have done. It was simply the end of what I could bear, the last afternoon of having to imagine waking up the next morning only to start all over again with a thick mind and black imaginings. It was the final outcome of a bad disease, a disease it seemed to me I would never get the better of. No amount of love from or for other people-and there was a lot-could help. No advantage of a caring family and fabulous job was enough to overcome the pain and hopelessness I felt; no passionate or romantic love, however strong, could make a difference. Nothing alive and warm could make its way in through my carapace. I knew my life to be a shambles, and I believed-incontestably-that my family, friends, and patients would be better off without me. There wasn't much of me left anymore, anyway, and I thought my death would free up the wasted energies and well-meant efforts that were being wasted on my behalf." ― Kay Redfield Jamison, Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide

It's not THE answer, but it helps.

I love you and miss you, Dude.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day 12: I believe

I believe....

  • Life is too short and fragile not to laugh and smile every day regardless of the circumstances.
  • You should always eat cake on your birthday.  Eat it for breakfast.  Make it a la mode.  However, whenever.  Just do it.
  • Using a water bottle or hairbrush as a microphone makes you sound better when singing.      
  • Dessert should be eaten at least once a week
  •  The beach calms the soul
  • Dogs are often the best medicine
  • God answers prayers
  • In miracles
  • Wine and cupcakes make almost anything better
  • In treating everyone the way you want to be treated regardless of whether or not they can do anything for you.
  • Drinking water while working makes you more effective (this is a little quirk of mine).
  • You can never say “I love you” too many times to those who love you back.
  • You can learn a great deal from those who are different than you.
  • Traveling is not only fun, it is necessary for growth.
  • Jesus is the son of God
  • In myself

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day 11: A Recent Photo

I don’t take many photos.  That’s mostly because my hands are always occupied with my two canes.  I love photos.  Typically, you will find me bugging the people I am with to “take that. Get this!”  If I do take a photo, I have to be sitting down.  And, even then, the chances of it coming out straight are slim.  My right hand does not turn over all the way, so the camera is never quite balanced.  It is always a little crooked thanks to my disability.  The bottom line is if you want your photo taken, I am not your go to person!  I do, occasionally, get a good shot.  This is one of them.

I took this photo of my parents on the beach in Aruba.  I was laying on a lounge chair contemplating life and they walked up to me after a long walk on the beach.  Since I was laying down, I was able to get this at an angle.  I like it a lot.  I think it really captures my parents’ personalities, their differences, their  relationship, their love.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Day 10: My Biggest Fear

I always try to be as authentic as possible on this blog.  When you have a disability, you get lots of stares and assumptions from people, so I’ve sort of learned not to pay attention to what other people think about me.  With that said, though, I am human, and it does bother me to some degree.  I am, in no way, completely immune to being affected by what others think of me. I preface that because I am sure some people are going to think my biggest fear is silly, but I’m just keepin’ it real on here.

My biggest fear is never getting married.  I should clarify that to say not being in a happy marriage.  I get proposals from homeless men on the street all the time.  I am sure if I didn’t have high standards and wanted to settle, I could, but I don’t want to.  I don’t want to be married for the sake of being married.  I don’t want to be married because it is what I am supposed to do in life.  I want to be married because I want to share that deep love and bond with another person.  Life is meant to be lived and shared and we are meant to be with another.  I want to raise a family.  I want to be my husband’s biggest fan.  I want to love and support him and his family.  I want to experience all of the peaks and valleys with the love of my life, my teammate.   I know what it is like to have a deep connection and unbreakable bond with another person.  I want that again – and then some more.  Like a few kiddos and a dog, too.  It’s my biggest fear because it is somewhat out of my control.  If I’ve learned anything over the last year, it is that God is in control and I am not.  That sounds so simple, but it is easy to forget when times are good.  When deep sorrow and heartache enter the scene, the loss of control stares you dead in the face.  I can certainly do things to help myself find the person I am going to marry, but ultimately, God is the best one to pick out my husband.

I wholeheartedly believe I will be married one day.  But, what if I am wrong?  I don’t want to be wrong.  I don’t want to be alone, but I don’t want to settle for fear of being alone.  I hope and pray that God brings my husband – and soon. 

I look at my friends’ lives and feel so far behind sometimes.  I know it is not all a bowl of cherries for them.  In some cases, I see couples and think I do not want that.  But, what I do want is a loving, lifelong relationship with the one God created for me.

I pray that is what God wants for me, too. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 9: The Great Steak Dinner

Today, I am supposed to share a photo of my friends.  Given that I have a lot of different groups of friends, I didn’t feel like searching for a bunch of photos only to risk leaving someone important out.  Instead, I want to talk about just one of my friends, my college roommate, Meredith, also known by me as “Hoops” and our great steak dinner.

After being accepted to University of Richmond, I filled out my roommate questionnaire and prayed for a tall roommate.  I wanted a tall roommate because I am so short and can’t reach anything up high.  In the middle of the summer, I received my roommate assignment.  All that was listed on the sheet was her name and where she was from: Meredith from Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.  We talked on the phone to get to know each other a little bit and to divide up who would bring what for our dorm room.  She seemed really nice and I was excited to meet her.  Not once did either one of us ask what the other looked like.  I guess that just wasn’t important. 

On move-in day, this 6’3’’ beautiful woman with the longest legs walked through the threshold of my dorm room.  I prayed for a tall roommate, but tall to me was 5’7’’.  God came through big and gave me a woman taller than my father!!  Not only is she tall, but she loves sports just as much as I do.  She also really enjoyed listening to music and we had a morning ritual of jammin’ out to some tunes while getting ready every morning.  We didn’t have the same classes or the same group of friends, but the two of us became fast friends.  Our late night conversations before bed were often the best part of the day because we had so much to catch each other up on. Hoops was a wonderful roommate.

Sophomore year, we both decided to spread our wings and room with other people.  We quickly realized that we missed being together and decided to room together for the remainder of our years on campus.  We reunited and it felt so good.
At University of Richmond, all the roommates that lived together for four years received a steak dinner at the end of senior year.  Since Meredith and I skipped one year, we were not eligible for the free steak dinner.  We were always kind of bummed about this.  A couple weeks ago, when she was in town, we decided to pretend like it was 2004 and go for our steak dinner.

We each had steak and then walked up to the cupcake place to grab some dessert.
 Nothing tops off a wonderful day better than a cupcake.  Duh!
Before we feasted, we hung out in my condo chatting.  As we were about to walk out the door, I realized I should brush my hair to look a little more presentable.  Meredith kindly offered to brush it for me.  This is significant because Meredith would always do my hair for my big sorority functions.  I guarantee you anytime my hair looked nice in college it was thanks to my roommate.  The range of motion in my arm is somewhat limited, so consequently, so are my hairstyles.  Meredith always wanted to make sure I looked my best and did my hair on many occasions.

A day with Meredith in town would not be complete without a little shopping.  My condo is surrounded by shops, so we hopped into a few, purchased some goodies, and she headed on home.

I will always refer to Meredith as “my roommate”.  I haven’t had another one since and would like to keep it that way.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Day 8: One Happy Island

Today’s prompt is to share a place you have traveled to.  I realized I didn’t share much about my trip to Aruba, so this is the perfect opportunity to reflect back on my trip a little bit.  I travel a lot.  My family and I try to go on an annual vacation, and then I typically take some time to get away with friends or to visit friends.  This year, my family and I went to Aruba.  We just wanted to be completely lazy and soak up the sun.  That’s exactly what we did!
My parents and I have traveled to many islands and Aruba may be our favorite!  In fact, at the end of the trip, we discussed that we may not go to another island again!  That’s a bold statement, right?  Here’s why:

1.    NO RAIN: Aruba is a desert so it barely ever rains.
We have been on too many Caribbean vacations where we have encountered rain.  Let me tell you, nothing is worse than going on vacation expecting to sit in the sun and on the beach all day only to be stuck in your hotel room thanks to torrential downpours.  A little rain doesn’t keep us away from those beach chairs. We don our bathing suits and brave the droplets that fall from the sky.  But, sun is sooo much better.  Aruba promises sun for the majority of the year. There is wind.  The wind can get intense, so you should pack a headband to tame that mane, but the wind will not keep you from enjoying the warmth of the sun and the beauty of the island.

2.    You can drink the water.  So often, we have traveled to islands where you have to use bottled water to brush your teeth because you can’t drink the water or you will get sick.  That also means you can’t have salad or raw veggies so you feel like you are getting fatter by the minute.  People often assume that it is OK to do whatever you want because you are in the hotel and the hotel wouldn’t want to get anyone sick.  There is some truth to this, but still in the back of your mind, you hope that everything is filtered correctly and you won’t get sick.  In Aruba, you don’t have to worry.  The water is the cleanest and it tastes so good.

3.    They speak English and take American money.  In fact, Arubans speak four languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento.   All fluently.  I was quite impressed and felt dumb.  I can barely speak two languages fluently.

4.    It’s clean and beautiful. Just look at this!

We stayed at the RIU Palace Aruba, which I would highly recommend.  It was smaller than the other RIU Palaces we have stayed at with only four restaurants that require reservations, but everything was beautiful and clean.  The food was also very good.  The drinks were loaded and these lightweights (my family) was often dumping a little off the top.  And, the Aquazumba instructor was a sight to behold.   (Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of him.  He did jump on top of me in the pool one day.  I didn't mind.)

One day, we weren’t lazy beach bums and took a Jeep Safari tour of the island.  It was amazing!  We went off-roading in the desert, were flying all over the place, and I even had my teeth covered in dirt.  Yes, it sounds gross, but life’s too short not to get covered in dirt sometimes.

We had a blast.

 Aruba truly lives up to its slogan of "One Happy Island!"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 7: My Favorite Film

My all time favorite film is “Father of the Bride” with Steve Martin.  Let me tell you a little story about this movie.  My family started a tradition many years ago of going to see a movie together on Christmas Day.  It used to be that we were three of ten people in the theater (I assume the other 7 were Jewish), and now people are in on our secret and the movies are packed on Christmas Day.  Jammed packed. This tradition started when we all went to see “Father of the Bride” together.  All three of us laughed the entire movie.

Not only is the movie funny and endearing, we laughed extra hard because we felt like we could have been watching our lives played out on screen.  I am very much the hopeless romantic Daddy’s girl.  My dad is Steve Martin to a tee in this movie.  If you know my dad really well, you know he doesn’t necessarily worry about money all that much, but he sure does talk like he does.  He is always saying to Mom and I, “That cost HOW much! Do you see a money tree in the backyard?”  We jokingly call my Dad the “chipper chicken” and I pray that he doesn’t get up at my wedding and say “This cost X dollars a plate.  Be sure to eat up!” I know he would never, ever embarrass me or himself like that, but so many of the things “George Banks” does in this movie have us rolling because it is like watching my dad.  Even he sees the character resemblance.  Diane Keaton/”Nina Banks” also really resembles my mom.  Of course my mom would not bat an eyelash at having swans at the wedding or thawing out the tulips with a hair dryer.   

“Annie and Brian” even get married on my parents’ wedding anniversary, January 6.

We will only be so lucky if I end up with a wedding planner like Franc.  And let’s hope my dad doesn’t accidentally wear a navy blue tux-aaaa-doe.

I am not one that can recite lines from movies.  My best friend is queen of this, but really, I could care less.  But, this movie.  I have seen it so many times and it never gets old.  I could probably singlehandedly recite the entire movie.

Without a doubt, my wedding day will be a very special day for my entire family.  One of love and warmth and joy.  And, if I am honest, my dad will probably do whatever I want to make it as special as possible.  He will be the best Father of the Bride there ever was.  But, I know we will reflect on this movie during the planning and on the actual day.  His chipper chicken tendencies will undoubtedly emerge and he has even offered his vintage convertible to me – similar to the one “George” drives.

“Father of the Bride” started our family tradition of going to the movies on Christmas and it will always be special to us for more than that reason.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day 6: My Favorite Things

Two things came to mind when I sat down to write this post: The Sound of Music and Oprah.  I won't be singing you a song, and unfortunately, I won't be announcing that all of these things will be going home with you!  Sorry, maybe one day if I win the lottery.  I do encourage you to check out or experience these things, though.  They are my favorites for a reason -- they're awesome!

1. Music - Oh my gosh. Music moves me.  It gives me words when I cannot speak.  It evokes emotions.  It recalls memories.  It motivates. I could not live without music. 

2. ITunes gift cards - to buy more music

3. The sand between my toes, staring at the ocean with a strawberry daiquiri in my hand

4. Sunsets

5. Cupcakes

6. Boom Chicka Pop: Aside from this being the coolest name for popcorn ever, it is amazingly addictive - and only 35 calories per cup!

7. Traveling the world

8. Vacations with friends that involve laughing til my sides hurt

9. Tight hugs

10. When two friends are together, don't say a word, but walk away feeling like you had the best conversation.

11. Summer thunderstorms during the week

12. The groom's face when he sees his bride for the first time

13. Snow cones from Texas

14. The Redskins

15. Dripping in sweat after a workout

16. Mint chocolate chip ice cream with rainbow sprinkles in a cake cone

17. The moment in church when you close your eyes and listen to everyone worshiping.  I imagine it is what heaven is like.

18. A sign from deceased loved one

19. Balloons

20. Boats - Anything by/surrounding the water

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day 5: Favorite Quote

Whatever you are, be a good one - Abraham Lincoln
I just recently came across this quote and it is a new favorite of mine.  I want to remember it forever.  It's words ring so true.

Whatever you are, be a good one - Abraham Lincoln
It proves that it is not about money, position or power.  It's about how you approach your life.  It is about the effort and enthusiasm and love that you put into all that you do -- whatever you do.

Whatever you are, be a good one - Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day 4: My Favorite Book

I'm not much of a read for fun type of girl.  I would go to the bookstore as soon as I got my summer reading list from school and tell the clerk that I wanted the books that had the least number of pages and the biggest print.  I could care less about the subject.  I just wanted to get through the summer reading as quickly as I could.  People laugh at me when I tell them I want to go to law school and that my undergraduate major consisted of a ton of reading.  For some reason, I don't mind doing that, but picking up a book for fun is just not my cup of tea.

If I recommend a book, it must be good because I would have never made it through it, if I was bored for even a second while reading it.  My favorite book lately is A Good and Perfect Gift by Amy Julia Becker.  It might help that the author is a close friend of mine, but I honestly think I would recommend this book even if I had no connection to the amazing woman who wrote it. 

Cuddled up in my bed, I tore through this book cover to cover in just one day.

You may pick up this book, realize that it is a story of a family raising a child with Down Syndrome, think that is not relevant to you and your life and put it back down. Yes, it is indeed a memoir about the surprise and challenges a first time mother felt when she learned two hours after her daughter's birth that Penny had Down Syndrome. Amy Julia had always placed high value on education and intellectual ability so this news brought dark days filled with sadness, fear, disappointment and shock that Penny may not live up to the dreams imagined for her while she was in the womb. Not only did the Beckers have to adjust to life with a newborn baby, Penny's Down Syndrome diagnosis ushered in a storm of questions and (perhaps) a dramatic adjustment in the life they had envisioned for their eldest child. More importantly, Penny forced an adjustment in the definition of perfection. Amy Julia candidly recalls her initial disappointment in the diagnosis and takes readers on the emotional and intellectual journey associated with the first two years of Penny's life. She asks uncomfortable questions. "Will I be able to be proud of her? Will I be able to love her?" (page 25) At first, she is not so sure. But as the book goes on, Becker leads the reader to see that these questions are not just those a parent of a child with a disability asks. She examines her own assumptions of "perfection" and challenges the readers to do the same.

Now you say, "Well, Jess, that's great, but this book seems even more irrelevant to me because I am not a parent"

Neither am I, but as a person with a disability I loved this book and want everyone to read it. This book beautifully articulates the struggles many people with disabilities feel. Fully able people often think the biggest challenges a disabled person face are physical or intellectual, depending on the nature of the disability. The truth is the physical (or intellectual) challenges are not high on our worry list. If we don't know how to do something, we will either try to do it a different way or don't know what we are missing anyway so it doesn't really matter. I would argue the greatest obstacle a disabled person faces is getting the world to see them as they see themselves: as a person with a disability rather than a disabled person. 

In A Good and Perfect Gift, Becker takes the readers on her personal journey from seeing her daughter as a disabled person to a person with a disability.
“Can she live a full life without ever solving a quadratic equation?  Without reading Dostoevsky?  I’m pretty sure she can.  Can I live a full life without learning to cherish and welcome those in this world who are different from me?  I’m pretty sure I can’t.” (pg 123) 

If you are a book worm and enjoy well written books, this is for you. If you are looking for an engaging story, pick this up when you have time because you won't be able to put it down. But, if you are interested in growing as a person, do me a favor and read this book. You will be changed -- for the better.

Hopefully, now I have intrigued you and you want to know more about this read. If so, go here. You will find many reviews and may I point out that Becker's book was selected as one of the best of 2011 by Publisher's Weekly!  Now that you're sold, go get it here!    

It's a good and perfect book -- and my favorite!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Day 3: Favorite Television Program

Pretty much the only TV I watch these days is reality TV.  I guess I consider it quality programming.  I know it's not, but it's a guilty pleasure that I love to indulg.  It's mindless, it's fun, depending on what show I am watching, it makes me feel better about my own life.  I just get a kick out of it!

My favorite show is "The Voice".  This show is now in season 4.  How did I just discover this gem?  It is a million times better than American Idol and The X Factor.  The quality of talent on the show is extraordinary.  The blind auditions and the steals keep me on the edge of my seat.  I'm always rooting for the judges to turn around and probably (unnecessarily) get just as nervous as the contestants waiting to see if one is going to go in for the steal.  The judges are funny and get along with each other unlike American Idol.  Usher is a bit arrogant sometimes, but man, is he a good coach!!  I am so impressed with how he goes outside the box with the contestants on his team and does what he can to help them become better performers. 

A lot of contestants on American Idol have made it big.  I think it is time for that show to step aside and make room for fame on The Voice.  I'm captivated.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 2: Meaning Behind My Blog Name

My friend, Ashley, and I purchased a brick to be placed on the walkway leading up Jill's House.  Jill's House is a ministry of McLean Bible Church in Vienna, VA that serves as a respite for children with disabilities.  They are able to come and stay overnight, be taken care of, and have a wonderful time.  The children participate in all sorts of activities and the parents greatly appreciate the fact that they can have a little break and their children are enjoying themselves away.  We decided to inscribe  Philippians 2:15, "....then you will shine among them like stars in the sky."  I thought it was perfect because I love stars, but I also hope to be a light in people's lives.  Most importantly, I hope the light of Christ radiates in my life.  As I learned all too well this year, life has many bright spots, but also can bring some deep sorrow and darkness.  Since this blog is a record of my life, I hope that regardless of how much light I see, the light of Christ shines always and I shine like a star to those around me.

That's how I came up with my blog name.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Day 1: My Favorite Song

If you know me well, you know how much I love music!  Music moves my soul.  I could easily give up my TV, but if I didn't have a way to listen to music, I would be one sad puppy.  The iPhone is a dream come true for me.  I keep earphones in my purse, so I can listen to music anytime, anywhere!  So, picking my favorite song!  That's impossible for me. But, I will try.  My current favorite song is "See You Again" by Carrie Underwood. 

But I have had Kacey Musgaves' album "Same Trailer Different Park" on repeat for weeks.  It is just SO good!  You may have heard "Merry Go Round" on the radio, but I am telling you that is just the tip of the iceberg on this album.  It's difficult to pick a favorite on this album, but if I had to, according to my iTunes, "Keep It To Yourself" is my favorite.

What is your favorite song/artist/album?  I am always looking for suggestions. 
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