Make journeys, and take chances

Sometimes you go on journeys you never knew you’d be taking.

And sometimes those journeys involve more than 20 hours of driving across the country.

As I recently mentioned, I got a job in California, and I officially made the move out here over the weekend (and I’m on my first day of that new job today). I knew the trip was going to take a little less than 21 hours to complete, but I didn’t want to break up the drive evenly—it seemed a lot more daunting—so I decided driving a little more than 15 hours on the first day and then a little more than five on the second would be better (which is weird because I hate numbers in increments of five). I don’t think I’d ever been in a car for 15 hours at a time, but it seemed very doable.

Please take note: Spending 15+ hours in a car is A VERY LONG TIME, so please make sure that fully sinks in before you start the trip. However, it is indeed doable.

Thankfully, my sister made the trek with me. I honestly don’t know how I would have survived it without her without going completely insane. Sure, she slept some in the passenger seat (she was awake most of the time), but she also drove for a couple of hours to give me some rest, which was very helpful—after all, how else was I going to catch up on my Instagram feed?

You know, the important things.

The trip started EARLY Friday morning. I woke up at 3:51 to get in a very short run because I can’t roll straight out of bed and get behind the wheel for hours upon end. I need something to wake me up, and running is the best option for that. I picked my sister up right around 5 a.m., and we were officially on our way.

We were just really excited to be in Van Horn, Texas, home of space tourism company Blue Origin.

It took a fairly long time to get out of Texas (it’s frickin’ huge), and we only got pulled over once (THANK YOU, state trooper, for letting us drive away with only a warning). After we parted from Texas, even though we drove through lots of desert stretches, it was an incredibly scenic drive. Plus, we had some really solid playlists to keep us going—special thanks to Taylor Swift (obvi), Kelsea Ballerini, Thomas Rhett, Matt Wertz and all of those old school 90s pop artists on Spotify). I feel bad for all of the people who have to make long drives without my sister along for the ride—they’re missing out. (As a side note, she is not available to be a passenger upon request, so please do not inquire.)

We were pretty drained and hangry (hanger is so real) by the time we reached Phoenix, which was our stopping point for the first day. We ate dinner with a friend who lives there and then went straight back to the hotel and crashed. I mean, it did feel like it was two hours later than what it really was in the new time zone, so the rather early bedtime didn’t seem early at all.

It was somewhat of another early morning the next day that included a run through downtown Phoenix and a homeless man shouting across the street to me, “You don’t have to run, but I’m too old to chase you!” Thanks for the info, bud. We were on the road again by 6 a.m., and it felt really good when we finally reached our destination. My hips and pretty much the entire rest of my body were so sore, and I felt like I definitely wasn’t walking like a normal human—maybe more like a newborn calf. I’m not sure. I couldn’t see myself, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the calf thing, but I’ve heard and can imagine that it looks very awkward. Regardless, it was nice to be out of the car.

We didn’t mind the view.

After the cable and Internet were set up, and most of my stuff was unpacked, my sister and I went on a walk on a trail she found, and we sat and overlooked a gorgeous view of the bay. I could have sat there for much longer, but we had to walk to get a few things at the store and then head back to my new apartment to wait for the mattress guy to deliver my new bed. I only brought what would fit in my car, and that was mostly clothes, so I needed a place to sleep. There had been a slight snafu of the truck with my mattress on it breaking down, but thankfully, the manager who helped me over the phone a little more than a week ago drove to a different store where the truck was towed, picked up my mattress, and delivered it to me later that evening.

He came just in time—my sister and I were reaching points of hanger again.

After dinner, we made trips to Bed Bath & Beyond and Target to get some essentials and then headed home for the night. We were both pretty wiped. It definitely wasn’t difficult to fall asleep that night.

I’m not going to lie: It was tough dropping my sister off at the airport the next morning. I know that distance can never break my bond of sisterhood with her, but watching her walk through those glass doors was when it hit me that this is real—I’m officially out here on my own now. I know God called me out here for whatever reason, and I trust what He’s doing, but it’s also not easy to leave behind everything you’ve ever known and be so far away from people who mean the most to you.

I’m definitely excited for what’s ahead, and I know that the many prayers and miles and countless trips of carrying clothes to and from my car and the long goodbye hugs are worth it all. I guess sometimes you really do have to go through some tough times to get to where you need to be—whether those tough times include heartache, sadness, goodbyes, tears, fears, stress, or whatever it is you face along the way. Those hardships are worth enduring and help you become stronger than you ever knew you could be.

And that strength can help you realize that some chances—on love or people or jobs or personal fears you’re overcoming or moving to new places or trying things that might scare you or a number of other situations—are absolutely worth taking.

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The best you is actually you

No matter where you are or what you’re doing in life, I truly believe it’s the people who make everything worthwhile.

Because people matter.

Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to be able to gather so many of my people at one location and chat with them and hug them before I leave town later this week. It was a really special evening, and even though I think it’s really cheesy sometimes when I hear the expression “my heart is so full,” I’m going to go ahead and add some cheese to your wine today—my heart was truly full that day.

I didn’t get many pics from Saturday, but here are a handful with some of the crew.

I had one moment when I was standing by myself for a second, and I glanced around at all of the people there and couldn’t help but smile. I wasn’t smiling because I thought they were all there to celebrate with me or because it turned out to be such a gorgeous day outside (though I was super thankful for the great weather). I was smiling because we’re all so different, and I just really love that. I love when people can feel like they can be their real raw selves without worrying what other people think or say about them. And I really love when people let people be their real raw selves and love them just the same without thinking or saying negative things about them.

It’s a beautiful picture to see.

When I first starting running with a handful of fast people in Dallas years ago, I have to admit that I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to keep up with them, and I didn’t know as nearly as much as they did about all of the big races and all of the best workouts to do to get ready for those races. But they didn’t judge me for my newness to the scene or my lack of accolades. Instead, they made me feel like I belonged. Then, when we were running on a local trail early one morning, and a bunch of little amphibian hoppers were everywhere, they didn’t make me feel like a complete fool for totally freaking out and admitting what my worst fear in life is. Rather than torturing me or making fun of me, they became protectors from the hoppers for me.

And they were there for me Saturday, being themselves with all of their unique quirks and traits—exactly as they should be.

There were people there that day from all parts of my life: work, running, childhood, family, and a category we can call simply call fate. I was surrounding by people who have always let me be me for years, and they’ve supported me in the choices I’ve made, through the heartaches I’ve endured, and even during the silly and sometimes overdramatic moments I’ve shared with them. It reminded me how much I love people. Sure, there are certainly those who drive me bananas, but I’m sure there are some things about them that are special to others and ways they impact people’s lives in drastic ways.

We’re all so different, and we all make our own choices and take our own paths at the times we need to take them. What you do won’t always be right for someone else, and vice versa. In the last few days, I’ve been reminded how important it is to do what you need to do, and ignore the static that sometimes tries to get in the way. People love reminding me that California is SO EXPENSIVE. While it’s true that some things are more costly there, it also really depends on what you’re spending your money on. There are certain things I’m paying more for in Texas than I’ll be paying for there (including car insurance and toothpaste, and I use a lot of toothpaste), and all of my research and realities of my life have shown me that my financial situation won’t leave me broke out there.

I hope my niece always remembers to stay true to who she is. She’s already a Cowboys fan, so she’s doing a great job so far.

The truth is that we’re made the way we are for a reason, and we do the things we do for different reasons, too. I know in my heart that this move is right, and I haven’t looked back since the Lord made that completely clear to me. I also know in my heart that people being wired differently is completely right, and I’m going to do my best to love them for being the particular and sometimes peculiar treasures they are. (Cue Bruno Mars singing “Just the Way You Are.”)

Please never stop being who you are and chasing the dreams you want to chase—no matter how astronomical they may seem or how crazy people may think you are for having them. The true tribe members in your life will back you the whole way, even if they do have concerns. Because they genuinely love you. Because they genuinely care about you. Because they genuinely believe in you.

And because they are genuinely your people forever.

I wish all people were comfortable with the ways they are, and I’ll never stop encouraging others to be so. I’ll never stop believing that anything matches if you wear it with confidence. I’ll never stop trusting that true love doesn’t judge or shame one another.

And I’ll certainly never stop reminding people of a truth engrained in my heart from now until the end of time: You are valued. You are loved. And you matter.

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Goodbye, Texas

There are some things in life I never thought I would be doing.

Like packing up everything I own into my car and moving to Southern California.

Ever since I read the Christy Miller Series when I was in high school, I’ve been fascinated with Newport Beach. (By the way, I highly recommend this series for all young women. And old women. And any women currently breathing.) It seemed like such a dream place and somewhere that could truly change a person in ways he or she never expected.

When my sister and I visited there a few months ago, my heart fell in love. As soon as we arrived, I felt a strange sense of peace, and I really felt like I was where I belonged. I felt this way the entire trip, but I assumed it was because I was so overwhelmed by being able to be in this place I had only imagined for so many years.

On the plane ride home, I started praying and had this moment in which I felt the Lord prompting my heart to move there. I tried to brush it off by telling myself that I had just really enjoyed the vacation with my sister and was on an ocean high or something.

But when God really wants you to do something, you can’t ignore His calling.

When we got back home, I still felt the uneasy feeling that I belong out there—whether that means forever or for now, I have no clue. But it just felt so right, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I kept praying about it, and every single time, the answer was clear: Move there.

I started applying for jobs, and I will say that it was a very discouraging feat most of the time. Apparently a lot of companies aren’t interested in hiring some girl from a completely different state when they can easily hire others more local who can actually show up to interviews at the drop of a hat and not have to make arrangements at work and book travel and possibly be compensated for relocation and whatnot. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent filling out seemingly endless applications for companies from which I would either never hear or from which I’d receive one-line emails saying they were pursuing other candidates.

Rejection hurts.

But then an opportunity came along for a marketing writing job for a private school system, and I jumped at it as soon as I read the job description. Within the next couple of days, I interviewed via Skype and then was asked to complete a writing assignment. I received great feedback and sent my references. I had hoped to hear back the same week I sent those, and I tried not to get too upset when I didn’t. It wasn’t until I woke up from surgery (which was successful!) the following Monday and checked my phone that I heard the voicemail offering me the job.

Holy schnikes—things just got real.

It’s incredible to me how quickly everything has fallen into place and how wonderful God’s timing has been throughout this entire process. (I don’t know why I sometimes think mine is better. It obviously is not.) I immediately booked a flight that night—and it’s slightly surprising I was functioning enough to do so, because I was very heavily medicated and had been advised not to make any big purchases or big decisions that day. Oops.

The following Saturday, I made a one-day trip out there to try to find a place to leave. I told myself I wasn’t flying home without a new home, but my time was VERY limited. I arrived Saturday morning (after having to take a shower with water bottles that morning—thank you, city of Dallas, for the “scheduled” six-hour water outage) a little before 9 a.m. and had a departing flight Sunday morning at 12:45 a.m. (or so I thought—the plane had some “mechanical issues,” so we sat on it for two hours before actually taking off. (P.S. Word of advice: It’s likely not wise to take such a trip the same week of a surgery and one day after having a kidney stent removed from your body. I do not recommend it.)

Biking along the beach heals the soul.

I visited a handful of places and started to get a bit down. What was I doing? What was I thinking? How did I think I could afford to live in California in a nice place? It became apparent that I was going to have to live in a dump for the amount I wanted to pay. I needed a break, so I went to Huntington Beach and rented a bike. As I rode, I tried to clear my head and just enjoy the peaceful scenery. I began praying and asking for some sort of miraculous provision.

It’s amazing to me how much God listens to and cares for us.

When I turned in my bike, I asked the homeboy behind the counter if he knew of any good apartments nearby. He directed me to a place that, as soon as I entered, I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford. I mean, a security guard had to open the garage for me and escort me to the leasing office. When the woman told me what the starting rates are for one-bedroom apartments, I cringed. I asked her if, even though she wasn’t supposed to suggest other apartments, she could recommend something nice, yet affordable.

I was just really happy that I found a place, had just eaten what tasted like the best chicken sandwich in the world (I was starving before it), and still had time for a nice evening walk before heading back to the airport.

That’s when Alex came to the rescue. He immediately stepped in and told me about a sister property in Newport Beach. He gave me all of the info and let the people there know I was on my way. As soon as I arrived, I knew I had found my home. It just felt so right. I found an apartment I adore, and it’s in the perfect location. It made the fatigue, disheartening moments and tears from throughout the day all worth it.

It’s all happening so fast, and I don’t have a lot of time left in Dallas. I’d be lying if I told you that I’m not a little scared. I’m not afraid of not knowing anyone in a new location—meeting new people and making friends is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. But I’m afraid of leaving my people. I won’t see my parents every Sunday and get a big hug from my mom right before I leave. I won’t be able to get together with my sister as often or stop by her apartment and see her and her husband and their crazy dogs and cat, and that tears me up inside. I won’t be able to hang out with my niece every weekend and visit with my brother and sister-in-law. I never knew I could love a tiny human who wasn’t even my own child this much until I became an aunt. And I can’t get started on all of my friends and my favorite froyo place—we’d be here for hours.

But even though this is going to be difficult, I know it’s right, and I’m incredibly excited. And I know that the people who are in my tribe forever are the ones I will never lose, regardless of where I am or where they are. I’ve said this before, and I still believe it with all of my heart: Love is so much stronger than distance.

And no amount of miles will ever change that.

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Because love is better

When I was a teacher, my school’s motto was one I really loved: “Work hard. Be nice.”

I wish people everywhere had that motto.

Since the very first time I heard the song “Tim McGraw” on the country radio station, I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan. Over the years, her honest lyrics have gotten me through crushes gone wrong, guys not noticing me, moments of humiliation, trusting my heart, surviving the worst broken heart I’ve ever experienced, and a number of other situations and emotions that really only her words in the form of songs could make me feel like someone else knows the exact same feelings I was going through at the time.

“Teardrops on My Guitar” was my mantra more than once and played over and over on those nights I was alone when everyone else was out on dates (so, basically every night). I belted “You Belong with Me” (which is also one of my favorite music videos of all time) in front of my mirror on multiple occasions and in my heart every single time I walked by the guy who had captured it. “Fearless” is the tune I sing with the hope of one day being able to experience it as a reality with my perfect person (I really do want to dance in a storm in my best dress in the middle of a parking lot). “Love Story” has been my ring tone since 2008 (no, I’m not kidding), and I’ve performed it so many places (including at multiple weddings and on a boat) that it’s borderline ridiculous. “Red” accurately describes so many emotions a person can feel about another person all at once, and I relate to it so well. “All Too Well” is a beautifully sad story that I feel every single girl can listen to and think about her first love and first broken heart and feel a true sense of comfort.

I could go on and on about every song she’s ever written and how those lyrics have mattered in big ways.

And then I heard her new single “Look What You Made Me Do,” and I saw the music video premier, and there was one emotion I felt that overshadowed any others I might have drawn from the lyrics: sadness.

The song in itself isn’t sorrowful—it’s more vindictive than anything. But what makes me so sad is the cause of it. I don’t know Taylor Swift. I’ve never met her and have no idea what she’s really like without the cameras on her. I like to believe that she’s just as kind and fun and goofy and human as she seems. I like to believe all of the stories I hear about how giving and caring she is to all of her fans. Yes, I’m a fan, so of course I’m going to defend her, but I’m also going to defend what’s right and the way that people should and should not be treated.

I’m about to make what’s probably one of the world’s worst analogies, but I’m going to go with it. When I was in the seventh grade, I went on a ski trip for a long weekend, and it had been gloomy weather back in the Dallas area while I was away. When I came back, though, my face was super red and looked sunburned because I had gotten a really bad case of windburn on the mountains. I was in the worst stage in life ever (i.e., middle school), and I already thought I was super unpretty, so having to go to school with a face the perfect shade of Christmas was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do.

I really don’t care if someone calls me “tomato face” now, but it hurt in seventh grade.

Sure enough, my face didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, two of the more “popular” boys in my grade were in my science class, and they didn’t let me live it down. They kept asking me why my face was so red when there had been no sun in Dallas recently, and then they started calling me “tomato face.” Even after the windburn went away, the not-so-friendly nickname they gave me stuck, and that’s how they referred to me the rest of the year. I’ve mentioned before that I used to have really tough struggles with self-confidence when it came to guys—because I never thought I was pretty enough for them to like me—and being called “tomato face” all year by them sure didn’t help matters in that department much.

And this was merely commentary from two boys at one middle school, which is nothing compared to what celebrities experience, especially now with all of the access to social media. It’s so easy for people to insult others and make judgments, and I just don’t think it’s right, nor do I think it’s fair. I don’t care if that sounds whiny, but I’m so tired of people being so hateful. Haven’t we seen enough of that in life? I realize that people in the spotlight have to learn to deal with negative comments and the haters out there, but I don’t think that makes any form of hatred acceptable—especially when it makes a person feel like the woman she used to be is completely dead because of the reputation she’s been given.

I would hate for anyone to be called “tomato face” and feel hurt because of it, and I hate that so many worse things are said I about so many people all of the time. I saw it far too often when I taught high school, and it broke my heart every single time. I know we’re human and aren’t going to be nice every single second of our lives, and we’re certainly going to make mistakes, but I think it wouldn’t hurt if we all made more concerted efforts to care about other people and what our words and actions can do to them. And I know we’re all capable of it. I saw it every day when I taught high school—you can think whatever you want about teenagers, but some of them sure could teach a lot to adults out there. I saw them care for people. I saw them not let hate take over. I saw them love in big ways.

I don’t like that Taylor Swift feels the way she does, and I really don’t like that there are so many other individuals out there who often feel that way, too—whether they’re famous or not. I wish we could all feel like we’re not tomato faces. I wish that we could all know that it’s OK for us to be the people we are and not change because we feel judged. I wish we could all know something I told my students as often as I possibly could, because I fully believe it with all of my heart.

You are valued. You are loved. And you matter.

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Because sometimes you just want something good to happen

I really don’t like trite expressions, such as “when it rains, it pours.”

Especially when they’re true.

As I mentioned last week, things have not exactly been super pleasant in my world lately, and this past week was certainly pretty rough. I’ll spare you a lot of the details, but let’s just say that it was filled with a lot of pain and discomfort and hydrocodone and other medicines. I just want it all to go away.

I spent the majority of the week on my sofa (my company was really great about letting me work from home all week), and I didn’t drive my car much at all. I wasn’t feeling up for going anywhere—walking is a bit painful right now—and apparently you aren’t supposed to get behind the wheel with certain meds in your system. But Sunday was my dad’s birthday, so I drove out to my parents’ house to spend some time with him.

But I had no idea what was in store for me that day.

After I left their house, I drove toward my all-time favorite froyo place. My appetite has been pathetic all week—everything sounds gross and makes me nauseated—but I needed that froyo. On the way, though, my car radio suddenly went out, all of the dashboard lights started flashing and freaking out, and my steering wheel suddenly locked up. Something similar happened a couple of months ago, and it turned out to be the battery. Because I just got that battery, I didn’t think that was it, so I was a bit concerned.

I somehow managed to turn that brick of a wheel a few times and navigated my way to the froyo parking lot (I have my priorities in line), and I pulled through a space and got out but left the car running because I figured it wasn’t going to start back up if I turned it off.

I got my cup of heaven and hustled back to my car and said a quick prayer that I could get it to the Firestone across the street. Thankfully, I did, and the fellas there told me they thought it might be the alternator, though they didn’t actually give it a detailed inspection. They gave me a quote for what it would cost, but I called my car guy because I just got a new alternator about a year ago. The Firestone people said I could leave my car in their lot until I got it all sorted out, so I took an Uber home until I heard back from my car guy. When I finally got to talk to him later, he told me he could take care of it but that he needed my key.

Dag nabbit.

Dear car, I’m sorry if I took you for granted. Please come back.

My relaxing time at the pool was cut short, and I scurried upstairs to shower, change, and call for another Uber to take me to get the key to him. That’s when I met Earlene, an interesting woman who has a story for everything. She’s even had her own fair share of kidney issues. She drove me all the way out there and then waited in the car until I came back so that she could take me to my brother’s house so that I could spend some time with him, my sister-in-law, and my adorable niece. (I’m actually really glad I wasn’t the one doing the driving, because I began having tremendous pain and had to take some of the medication that I’ve grown to hate.) Earlene is a very kind woman—if you ever meet her, for the love, please ask her how excited she is about her 40th high school reunion cruise she’s using her Uber money to pay for next summer—and she offered me a lot of encouragement.

You’re on the upside now—I can tell.

When she said those words, I felt a little bit of peace. And I really hope she’s right. I’ve been trying to remain positive with so many tough things I’ve gone through over the last year, but I feel like they tend to pile up all at once. It’s not easy for me to ask people for help sometimes, and I already felt like I had been causing inconvenience to people with all of the help I needed while I was in the hospital, but now not having a car makes things even more difficult. I’m thankful for Uber, but I’m also pretty sick to my stomach at how much money I spent Sunday afternoon. (After my ride with Earlene—also, please ask her about her theories on the JFK assassination, because I guarantee you’ll be intrigued—when I left my brother’s house, he dropped me off at a Kroger near where he lives so that I could get some needed groceries, and I had to take yet another Uber to get home. I was Ubered-out.)

I know I have a lot in life for which I need to be thankful, and I am. At the same time, though, I think it’s OK to admit that life can feel like a never-ending storm at times. There’s a country song that says “every storm runs out of rain,” and I’m going to believe that. I’m also going to believe that Earlene is right about me being on the upside.

I talked to my dad and then my sister at the end of the day, and my conversations with them reminded me how much the issues with my car don’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things. Sure, the situation is quite frustrating and will likely be expensive, but what really truly matters are the people in my life. I still got to spend time with my dad on his birthday. I still got to see my mom, whose love is bigger than life itself. I still got to laugh and enjoy precious moments with my brother and his family. I still got to see my sister this weekend and make a bad day better by talking with her. My car might stop being there for me, but my family never will.

And their love is the sunshine to any storm that comes my way.

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When you weren’t expecting surgery

I know that life throws unexpected things at us sometimes, but there are certain unanticipated events I would prefer to avoid.

Like surgeries.

Last Wednesday, I had been feeling weird all day at work. I’ve had some kidney issues this year, but they’ve all been on my right side, and this pain was on my left. I thought it might be a kidney stone, but I also thought maybe I was just having really bad cramps or had eaten something that hurt my stomach. But there was also pain in my back, though I was trying to ignore it.

I went through the entire workday, but something simply felt off, and I was hurting pretty badly. My solution was to go home and go running. Listen, I don’t always make the wisest decisions in life, and this was probably one of the unwise ones. It turns out that, even though running often makes me feel better when I’m sad or even feeling a little sick, it’s not helpful for all of my ailments.

I got home and quickly showered so that I could go meet some friends for dinner. I was talking to my sister on the phone one the way, and she told me I probably shouldn’t go to dinner if I really wasn’t feeling well. I should have listened to her, but I didn’t. I showed up at one of my favorite taco places, but within three minutes, I left to go to the ER.

I’m becoming all too familiar with that place.

I was given lots of pain meds (after they only blew two of my veins that night), and then I went back for a CT scan. Surely enough, it was a kidney stone. The doctor told me it was a very large one and was the cause of the pain I had been feeling all day. But he said it was far enough along that it had almost run its course, so he sent me home with pain meds and another medication to help it pass. My sweet friend Bonnie had come to the hospital in case I needed a ride home, but apparently I was OK to drive, even after everything that had been pumping through my veins. She was a real trooper and followed me home and even stopped at two different pharmacies with me (we were misled to believe one was a 24-hour pharmacy, but it was not).

When I woke up the next morning, the pain was worse, and it was in the same spot. I was worried that somehow the stone was stuck. Bonnie called me to check on me, and thankfully she hadn’t left for work yet, because she ended up driving me back to the ER. The doctor there found that the stone was indeed an obstructive stone, which meant that it was so large that it had actually gotten stuck and was blocking stuff inside me, and I needed to have surgery to remove it. I told Bonnie to go to work since it was probably going to be a rather long day, and then my mom ended up coming to be with me. It was a rough day—none of the pain medicines they gave me were working, so they finally gave me what they said was the strongest medicine possible, and it sort of helped.

Bonnie and Michelle are keepers.

I was admitted to the hospital, but my surgery couldn’t be done until Friday, so I was basically just treated for pain all of Thursday and the majority of Friday. My mom stayed with me most of the day Thursday, and then my sister stopped by for a bit, and then Bonnie came back with my friend Michelle to help bring some smiles to my rather miserable situation.

I didn’t get much sleep that night, and I had to disconnect the heart rate monitor completely so that the machine would stop beeping at me. (I have a naturally low resting heart rate, but the nurses wouldn’t put it on a lower setting, so I told them I wasn’t going to wear it.)

Finally, the time for the surgery rolled around the next day (at which point I finally put on the hospital gown they gave me), and my mom and sister were both there at this point. Before taking me back to the operating room, the anesthesiologist gave me something that was supposed to relax me, but I don’t remember a thing after that until I woke up. I asked where my Wheat Thins were (priorities, people), and then I said I needed to talk to my sister and my mom. I briefly got to see them, and my sister told me the surgery was not successful.

Say what?

Apparently the stone was so large and in a difficult location that the doctor was unable to get it. He tried multiple times but told my mom and sister that if he had done anything more, he would have lacerated my ureter, which would have led to much worse complications and a much more extensive and invasive surgery to repair it. So, somehow he was able to push the stone back up into my kidney. I currently have a stent inside me that I have to wear for two weeks until I go see the doctor again for a different surgery that will hopefully get rid of everything.

But I didn’t have much time to react to any of that news—I was immediately taken away from my mom and sister because I wasn’t breathing right. They weren’t allowed to come back there with me, and the nurse kept telling me that I needed to breathe. I was still very woozy, but I thought I was breathing. She shoved breathing tubes up my nose and told me to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, but I don’t think I did a very good job because she took those out and then put an oxygen mask over my face. It was kind of a scary 30 minutes or so of not knowing if I was actually breathing or not. According to the machine beeping at me and the nurse coaching me, I wasn’t.

When I finally returned to a normal state, I was able to see my family again, and I was taken back up to my hospital room. I really just wanted to get out of there so that I could make it to my niece’s first birthday party the next day. (Yes, I know going was overdoing it, but I couldn’t miss that party for anything in the world—not even surgery.) My precious sister and heart-of-gold mom had bought me a bear while I was in surgery (we named him Bow to go along with my koala named Tie), and my mom took care of me all night and checked on me so many times to make sure I was still breathing.

If I could not go through this again, that would be great.

I don’t like still being in pain, and I really don’t like that the surgery didn’t work and that I have to go back for another one. I don’t understand why any of this happened, and maybe I never will. But I do know that I am so thankful for my people. I don’t know what I would have done without my sister, my mom, Bonnie, Michelle, the caring doctors and nurses, and the multiple people who kept texting me to check on me.

We’re all going to face some crappy situations in life, but sometimes we need our people to help us through—and faith that everything is happening for some greater purpose and that we are going to survive those tough times.

Life sure can be ugly, but love makes it so much more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

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The story of my single life

Every once in a while, the reminder that I’m single slaps me in the face pretty hard.

Like when I’m trying to do a two-person job by myself.

I recently bought a new MacBook and decided to sell my iMac to the company Apple partners with for doing so. It sends you this gigantic box and all of the packaging materials you need to ship it back. The concept seemed simple enough—I had no idea how ridiculously complicated the packing system was, though.

I finally got everything deleted from my account on my old computer and reinstalled the operating system (a process that also tested my patience a little bit), and then I figured I was ready to follow the step-by-step instructions on the piece of paper that had come in the box. What I didn’t realize was that I was nowhere near ready for what was ahead of me.

Because I never thought a cardboard box could defeat me.

There was a huge piece of cardboard that had plastic wrapping attached to it, and you flatten the cardboard and slide the computer under the wrapping. You’re then supposed to pull the wrapping tightly around the bottom of the computer, which I did (sort of). Then, the geniuses who created this flawed system expect you to be able to fold two of the sides down. It looks super easy on that piece of paper.

But I’m not sure they factored in people trying to do this by themselves.

I don’t know that I can accurately describe why this was so flippin’ difficult, but it was. My wingspan is not long enough on its own to be able to fold both sides down at the same time, and after one was folded, it became physically impossible for me to get the other side down without the first one popping back up. I spent a solid 19 or so minutes trying to do this and am pretty sure I was sweating by the end of it. I also walked away with a few bruises from the computer when I was trying to maneuver the materials to try to defy physics and whatnot. I came close to ruining the cardboard contraption completely more than once.

I’m normally not a quitter, but I couldn’t take it anymore—I gave up and folded all of the sides up, even though doing so meant the computer wasn’t secured in there as tightly. To be honest, I was beyond the point of caring.

Then the fun of trying to make that fit into the big box began. Again, this was also probably a task more suitable for two people. It was simply too big for me to be able to hold it at a good angle and fit it in there, and I’m pretty sure it would have fit better if the sides were folded correctly, but that’s a reality on which I choose not to dwell.

By a miracle of God, I finally had success.

I might boycott cardboard for a while.

I quickly used the packaging tape they sent me (which was actually super cute, by the way), to tape up the box and then noticed something that made me cringe more than a little bit: I had taped the wrong end of the box. You see, I had opened it on the wrong end originally, so I didn’t think anything of it. However, each side of the box had an arrow with the word “up,” which meant it was taped on the “down” side. I said a weary prayer that the computer would make it to its destination in one piece and not be damaged from the multiple packaging mishaps that I had created.

I then looked down at the box and wondered how in tarnation I was going to get that thing to my car downstairs. It’s not that it was super heavy, but it looked too massive for me to carry on my own. So I scooted it. Yep—I got in defensive tackle position and pushed the box to the elevator and down to the parking garage. As soon as I got down to the garage, though, I had to accept the fact that I couldn’t scoot it on the concrete to my car.

That was a really unfortunate realization.

I was so tired. I put my head down. I suddenly looked up to see a tall beautiful creature walking through the doors into the garage. I didn’t even think twice before letting the words come out of my mouth: “Hey, hi, hello. Can you please help me move this box into my car?”

Homeboy had super long arms, so he was able to pick it up without my help and put it in my backseat. I thanked him probably six times and then hopped in my car to head to the post office. Somehow—I’m really not sure how—I got the box out of my car on my own and awkwardly carried it to the door. I don’t like to admit failure, but I tried to open it on my own and had a success rate of zero. Thankfully, some man full of jokes saw me struggling and helped me and also felt the need to point out the absurd picture before him. Thanks, bro.

I finally got that huge box to the desk (Mr. Funny had more commentary when I tried to hoist it up there on my own) and out of my hands. I really wanted to take a nap.

I have to admit that a thought ran through my mind during that entire box situation: This would not be this difficult if I had a boyfriend.

I know it’s silly to have such a thought, but it’s also true. It’s not just about having someone to help me, though—it’s about having someone to make memories and share experiences with. It probably would have been a lot funnier in the moment and not just looking back on it if it weren’t something I had tried to do all by myself. I’m a very strong-willed and independent person, but every once in a while, I have moments when I think it would be nice to know what it’s like to be loved by someone who picked me out of everyone else in the world.

That evening, I watched the NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and I was really touched by Jason Taylor’s speech. He said so many wonderful things, but one struck me more than the others: “Ease is a greater threat to growth than hardship.”

And he’s right.

I truly believe that it’s the really tough stuff we face that helps us become even stronger. I mean, even though that whole box situation was draining, it was something I obviously needed to endure that day.  Sure, it made me feel weak in certain moments, but it was also a reminder that I can still handle the difficult circumstances that come my way—and that, even though I may not have a fella, there are still people who will always be there to help me along the way. I also always have the Lord there working His miracles on His own time.

And it was a reminder that being single doesn’t mean you’re completely alone.

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