Wildcards Vacation 2017: Colds and Charleston

This year my friends decided to switch up our normal Nagshead beach trip and travel an extra few hours south to Charleston, SC. It was a week-long adventure of discovering new places, seeing beautiful architecture, eating amazing food, and spreading germs between fourteen people and two apartments.

Our car — affectionately and not at all competitively referred to (by us) as the “best” car — carried four people and one massive cold virus. The trip began with an immediate stop for cough drops and ended with none of the other three passengers feeling sick, so we didn’t think too much of it beyond hoping our friend felt better.

Until another wildcard fell ill. Then another. Then another. Every day it seemed a new person woke up feeling crappy. Still, those of us from the best car didn’t feel it. We were invincible. We were immune to what became known — affectionately — as the Tyler Plague.

We went to the beach — both Folly and Sullivan’s Island. We went out to bars every night (even if a lot of those nights we still made it home before midnight and in bed shortly thereafter — when did we become grownups?). We wandered through neighborhoods of houses from the 16- and 1700s. My husband convinced almost everyone to try our favorite burrito spot (Minero) at least twice. (Side note: I’d previously had the best burrito of my life here. This trip, the catfish taco blew me away.) He also had avocado toast at a restaurant near our airbnb (Park Cafe) for the first time…and every day of our trip. By the last day, they knew him there.

Some wildcards went golfing. Some did stand-up paddle-boarding. Some did an escape room. Some went on a ghost tour that turned out to just be a walking history tour about brothels, murder, and conspiracy theories (which is way better in my — slightly terrified of ghosts — opinion). We played our usual drinking games without our usual, youthful enthusiasm, and spent a lot more time just hanging out and chatting.

It was a wonderful trip, even if I personally missed having a pool to lounge around beside. We reflected on how far we’ve come, how grown up we’ve all gotten, and looked forward to future trips and more changes as life spurs us onward.

The magic faded on the drive home. Two passengers were coughing instead of just the original one. We all insisted it was tickles in throats or residual from A/C and late nights and drinking and whatever else we could think of.

Then the Tyler Plague hit my home. My husband got it first, but I was (am) only about a day behind him. Now, we’re shuffling around the apartment, thankful that — due to our upcoming move I still have yet to blog about in detail — we no longer have work to suffer through or obligations that can’t be pushed back a day. Our coffee table is a mess of Dayquil and cough drop bags and tissue boxes. We’re drinking tea all day (echinacea and ginger and lemon and “cold 911” from David’s Teas on repeat). Our pantry is stocked with chicken soup. We’re going to crush this thing.

Our lack of complete immunity is a somewhat humbling blow. Still, it’s a worthwhile price to pay for a week with the Wildcards.

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Man’s Best Friend

My family experienced a terrible loss last summer: a vanquished king. My husband’s first (thus far only) dog–yes, El Rey Louis Dandy–passed away. A constant loving, grounding presence in most of my husband’s life, gone.

I started to write this not long after Rey passed, but it was too difficult.

The thing about dogs is their loss is always unexpected. No matter how you prepare, no matter how old and frail and sick, no matter the decisions a family makes out of love and sacrifice. Nothing prepares you for the shock of the loss. A dog spends such a short time on this earth — completely insignificant amount of time, in the grand scheme of things. If our lives equal a blink of an eye, a dog is the muscle twitch preceding the blink. Most of our life is consumed by everything and nothing; rarely do we give huge chunks of it to our pets. For them, though, we are everything. Every second of their short life is focused on their owner. Where is he? Does she want to play? Will she rub my belly? Can I get him to share his food?

If you’ve ever been around a dog, you know what love looks like. A dog is content to sit and stare at you. I imagine they think things like “look at him, he’s so beautiful.” or “She’s mine and I just love her so much.” You’ve seen their tail start to thump the ground if their owner casts them a brief glance, their ears twitch at the sound of his voice.

They don’t seem to register rejection, or annoyance, or anger. They’ll skulk away for a moment, sure, but then they realize they aren’t with the love of their stupidly-short life and come trotting back to let you shoo them away again. They stare out the window or at the solid front door, always waiting, yearning, hoping for you to return.

I’ve known a dog to smile — teeth bared, breath snorting, tail furiously wagging — when anyone she loves walks into the room. I’ve known one to leave his treat beside my pillow, a Valentine’s Day gift. I’ve known one to follow you around and drop a ball at your feet and stare, waiting as long as it took for you to toss it for him. And he’d follow you still, with his big, brown, love-filled eyes, even when you never threw the ball. When I was small, our German Shepherd would lay perfectly still so I could use her as a pillow or a seat.

Dogs are selfless and glorious and perfect. And as much as it hurts to lose them, it would be sadder still to never love one.

A Too-Public Apology

I’ve gotten carried away on Facebook. This election was ugly and contentious and it stirred up a lot of “yuck” on both sides. After the shocking results (or not so shocking, if you’re that one professor who’s always right about presidential elections), everything came to a head.

Going into Election Night, I knew a lot of friends and family voted differently than me–and that was okay. One person — whom I love more than my own life, and who did not vote my way — posted her “I voted” sticker to Facebook, and someone else commented “I hope for the right one!” Now, this could have been a statement of solidarity, like “so did I and I hope we made the right choice.” But I saw red. I almost typed back something along the lines of “who are you to judge if someone’s choice is right or wrong? She voted for the right person for her and that’s all that matters here.” I was ready to throw down, all in defense of someone who basically canceled out my vote, because I loved her more than a stupid vote or a stupid four years or eight years or whatever it will be. (Instead, I raged to my husband and settled in to watch Hillary #crushit). And then I lost sight of that completely.

I’ve always known I’m very competitive and not the best loser, but this was not some game I could shake off the way I should have. I’ve written before my reasons that I personally could never support Trump; I didn’t realize until he won just how much my own understanding of my immediate world was wrapped up in this election. Suddenly, I didn’t see family, I just saw betrayal. I felt confused — probably because I never took the time to sit down beforehand and explain face-to-face with people what it is that drives my thinking, and therefore how I believe they must think, too. I was — and am — terrified of what this can mean for a country already so divided.

I lashed out on social media, in a defiant show of love behind a veneer of anonymity, a soapbox once-removed. And I hurt people with some of the things I’ve “liked”, some of the posts I’ve shared. I didn’t take the time to put into my own words my terror and my angst and my confusion. I won’t apologize for fearing for my country, or for feeling hurt or betrayed or confused, because this is how I feel, and I am allowed to process this in my own way.

But I do sincerely ask forgiveness for the hurt I’ve caused through a careless, too-public post, or the words I’ve endorsed without explanation or attempt to make them my own. Because I’d like to think that while I shared some of the same sentiments, my own words could have held more love and less accusations. It’s too easy, when one is hurt and scrolling through a newsfeed, to say “yeah!!” and just click ‘share’ rather than sit and think and scribble out her heart. It’s vulnerable and difficult, especially when that heart is already bleeding from wounds others don’t realize they’ve made. Wounds that might have been avoided, if we’d shared our hearts sooner.

Because the people I love — those who want to Make America Great Again and those who were #WithHer and those who chose neither — they feel the same as me. They fear for America, they want what’s best and they didn’t intend to hurt me anymore than I wanted to hurt them personally.

And maybe this whole post shouldn’t be public, either. Maybe it would be better served individually, but a public harming deserves a public acknowledgement that while I’ve been screaming about “love” for almost a week, I haven’t done a good job of connecting through love with those I care about. And maybe I’ve hurt someone without even realizing it, and I want them to know I’m sorry for that, too. Love is not a weapon, but a shield we should use to defend what’s precious against a ravenous world. I lost sight of that, and I’m sorry.

I love you.

You are the Best Thing

This weekend, my husband and I will celebrate our first year of married life. It’s insane to me that a full year has passed since the “I do”s and the big dress.

Recently, someone asked how being a newlywed was going. I surprised myself by responding immediately with “it’s really wonderful.” That’s not to say it’s surprising that being married is wonderful — of course it is; why else would people do it? It’s just also hard sometimes, and annoying sometimes, and honestly, a little bit terrifying. But when faced with the question — asked in a way that was meant to illicit a deep, well-thought-out response — my first associated feeling was warmth and light and safety. My lips lifted. And then the words tumbled out. “Really wonderful.”

Trust me, this wasn’t some platitude to change the subject. It wasn’t naivety or boasting or sugar-coating reality. Sharing a living space with someone is annoying. Especially when one is introverted and has grown used to living alone. Suddenly having another person eating my food and using my bathroom and watching my TV 24/7 was uncomfortable (note: I should say that it is “our” food now, and “our” bathroom, and –if anything– “his” TV). I like coming home from work and writing or watching a good, detailed show on the DVR (like GoT) or reading a book or whatever it is that is silent and solitary and not peppered with questions. I’ve had to get used to there being someone who wants to hear about my day and tell me about his (and eventually ask for the umpteenth time “why does she have dragons?”) — literally every single day.

My husband is neurotic about very particular things. We all have our quirks. I’m seriously blown away he loves me so freaking much considering all of my own little weirdo-things.

We are also different people. This should go without saying, but being different people, we have different thoughts and ideas and different things are important or not important or done differently and this leads to fights.

This year has not been a walk in the park, though we’ve taken many. We’ve experienced loss, and learned how difficult comfort can be to find when he grieves differently than I. There have been eye-rolls and firmly-shut-doors (okay, I might have slammed one or two). There have been tears (in my defense, he knew going into this I’m a mess of emotions) and there has been heavy silence. I’ve learned (read: still learning) that sharing a life can be as windy and rocky as it is smooth.

But I’ve also learned that if I’m not feeling well, my husband knows without my saying which mug to serve my favorite soup in. I know he’ll go to three different stores to track down one ingredient for dinner if I say it’s important (and sometimes, even if I say it’s not). He always cleans up after dinner — he’ll say it’s because I cooked, but even if he makes his specialty rice-and-avocado-burritos, he cleans up.

When a funny movie makes him belly-laugh, he reaches for my knee. It’s a subconscious tick — he just likes to be physically connected to me while we’re doubling over with laughter. Sometimes he holds my hand as he’s falling asleep. He tells me he loves my singing (no matter how loudly, stupidly, or off-key I make it), and insists he’s not lying when I scoff.

He thinks I’m strong, and beautiful, and that I see the world with childlike wonder. He can be utterly selfless, my modern-day hero. He epitomizes one of my favorite lines from my favorite movie about my favorite fictional crush: “That boy would stand on his head if I asked him to!” (okay, so the original quote said “Gilbert Blythe” but I’ve thought it so often of my husband that it’s forever warped in my heart to “that boy”).

So despite the challenges that go along with all of life, despite the discomfort of fitting my life with another human being, when asked to dish about all the anxiety marriage can bring, the word that came to mind was “wonderful.” Really wonderful.

There were points during the past year where I questioned everything. I had panic attacks and really low periods and felt really lonely. There were also times I couldn’t fall asleep because my husband wasn’t home yet, and now I’m used to his arms around me at night. It’s all a beautiful, painful, wonderful journey to weave my life with someone else, the best someone else. It’s a journey we’ll continue on for a lifetime of years.

 

Beach Beach Beach Beach!

This is the mantra of my week. Because this weekend, you guessed it, I’m going to the beach.

It’s the annual Wildcards Beach Trip, so the Outer Banks better beware. We’ve spent our time making so many plans that will likely not come to fruition (no matter how awesome “Pickle Back Monday”* sounds) and just repeating “beach” to each other over and over that I am like a child in her last week of school. Who cares about anything at all? THE BEACH IS NEXT WEEK!

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Last year, due to so many of us getting hitched and having our own private beach vacations (aka honeymoons), we did not do a beach trip. You can bet this year we will be sure to make up for that fact.

We’ve tried to learn from past “mistakes” (but really, none of our ideas are bad ideas), and attempted to make a grocery list for when we arrive. The normal behavior is a large group of us to rush into the store, grab a cart, panic and just grab everything we see. We all like sandwiches, so we each get a loaf of bread. We all buy our own gallons of milk. We make fun of the one person who always buys donuts, and then we all eat them all week. Inevitably, there are one or two of us who fill their carts with cases of beer, and the ladies in the group insist it’s too much and the men insist it’s not enough and then make it their goal to prove themselves right (we always end up needing more beer. Because we’re garbage).

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Our first Wildcards beach trip occurred over spring break our senior year of college. It was amazing. The house had an elevator. For that reason alone, it was the best house. Even when the hot tub stopped working, our guys just carried boiling water in pots down from the kitchen on the top floor to dump into it.

That’s also an excellent shot of our Wildcards team shirt.

There was a room just for video games. There was a nice long table in the dining area for a vicious game of Peanuts (the last time this group ever played due to “cheating” — does it count as cheating if you announce you’re doing so? — and over-competitiveness) and for extensive puzzle-making.

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And, I mean, it had a bench by the pool table which was clearly for liquor storage.

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Note for Mom: We did not finish all this alcohol in one week. We are not animals.

Another important factor, our self-designated (and uncontested) group-mother laid out an organized chart of which pairs and trios were in charge of dinner each night. Of course, we made it a competition (how else would we live our lives?), which resulted in pretty amazing food each night (except the night the grill-masters under-cooked some of the burgers, but to be fair, I think we were pretty impatient. Alcohol kills bacteria, anyway, right? WRONG).

Since that trip, others have taken turns being the ringleader of the trip (i.e. facilitating the discussion of dates, choosing the house, determining how to charge everyone for the nights they are staying, etc). These trips have been awesome — because, Wildcards — but also extremely disorganized by comparison. (Group-Mom is so organized there’s no hope of anyone coming close).

Whether this trip will be as organized as spring break or as chaotic as is typical of the Wildcards, it’s going to be fan-freaking-tastic. We’ll eat pounds of mac ‘n’ cheese and shout “VACATION!” to justify it. We’ll make classy cocktails and wash them down with cheap beer and drinking games. We’ll lay in the sun and play bocce ball in the sand and throw a football in the waves.

A few of the guys will likely try to dig a hole to China because that’s apparently still a thing kids do. We’ll talk trash and have life chats, and for one week, nothing else will matter.

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Continue reading “Beach Beach Beach Beach!”

Take My Life and Let It Be

Lately, there have been a lot of political issues that I’ve felt strongly about, but out of fear of the reaction of those around me, I’ve kept my opinions off social media. I’m non-confrontational, a people-pleaser to a fault, so the idea that I could be a source of tension or discord in a relationship is terrifying to me. I’ve stood instead on my soapbox in my empty living room, ranting to myself and my husband and my God.

I can’t anymore. This time, I’m too angry and too sad. This time, the feeling runs too deep.

I’m done with the silence, praying with the cries of my soul. Now, may the world hear my heart.

A few years ago, I started praying every time I sat in a low-lit theater, waiting for the previews to start: Please, God, don’t let there be a shooting here tonight. God, please, please don’t let me die during Zoolander 2.

I wasn’t worried about ISIS or Radical Islam. I was terrified of the one-off white guy who snapped.

Now, my prayers have changed: Please, God, take me in a shooting by an American. And God, if I get to choose, let him be anything but Muslim. Show those who love me that anyone can cause terror. Teach my family and friends that Radical Islam is not synonymous with terrorism, but simply one — albeit effective — example of it. Use my life to open even one person’s eyes to the idiocy of claiming an assault rifle is a weapon of defense, when the very name implies attack.

Take my life, Lord, that even one person’s outlook may be changed. 

And God, remind my family of your forgiveness. And if I die at the hands of a Radical Islamist, remind my father of the lesson he drilled into me since I was small: that he could be the only Jesus the Muslim community knows.

Remind my loved ones that Jesus represents love, and forgiveness, and acceptance. That as Christians, these are the traits we are called to show to the world. Jesus asks us to turn the other cheek, not turn our backs on the suffering, the sinning, the potential risks, the unworthy. 

I, too, am unworthy. I, too, have held hate in my heart.

They call these attacks on America a jihad. Holy War. Well, I declare a Holy War, too. A challenge to those who follow Christ. A war fought by loving our enemies, doing good to those who hurt us without exception or conditions, without “if” or “unless.” A war led by a Savior who cried for the children to come to him. My Jesus laid down his life when he could have fought back. My Jesus is disheartened by those who put the ease of gun ownership above common sense and the safety of our children. (Because we are all someone’s children)

So use me, Lord, that even just one person may learn that hate breeds more hate. Only love conquers all. 

And remind them, God, that Love chose to die. The victory does not go to the last man standing; it’s in the peace that follows.

My “Sister” is a Bitch

I mean, seriously (she’s a dog):

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But also, she can’t even look at me when I’m talking to her? Rude.

Heidi (II) is the most recent in a long line of pups my family has owned. Since before I was born, we’ve had a Heidi (the original), Lucky, Pete, Becky, and Sasha.What makes this one so special?

This Heidi is my mom’s baby.

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This is a big deal because my mom is not really an animal person. She hates cats. She tolerates dogs. She’s responsible for several guinea fowl murders (they cackle and poop and are ridiculously ugly, so the jerks were one hundred percent asking for it).

Heidi II came along when Mom was empty-nesting hardcore. My brother was graduating college in a few months. I was getting married a few months later. And really:

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Can anyone help falling in love?

Being named for the family’s first dog is a great honor. The Original Heidi was, quite honestly, the best dog ever. She adored us. I remember napping on her, and riding her like a horse, and, I mean, just look at her:

She freaking pulled us around on a saucer in the snow.

This Heidi is crap compared to her namesake. She’s a diva. Here she is rolling her eyes at us:

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Such a bitch!

She barks if my mom hugs me too long. She wedges herself onto the couch between my dad and me. And yeah, she’s “not allowed” on the couch, but who would dare stop her?

Honestly, my brother’s gotten the worst end of the deal. He’s used to being the baby. The precious child. You know, living the “it’s all about the baby” kind of life. And now here comes our parents’ new furry child to fill the gaping holes we’ve ripped in their lives by simply growing up, and my brother has become the dreaded middle child, aka chopped liver.

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Blissfully ignorant of the fact he’s soon to be irrelevant.

But seriously, Heidi is all right. She’s sassy and has dumb moments like Sasha. She likes sneaking onto couches like Becky (even though Heidi is way better at it). She’s sweet like Heidi the First and loves to play fetch almost as much as Pete did. Her personality is strong, and it’s a funny, familiar combination of our past dogs. And she keeps my parents young and laughing. So I guess she can stay. Even if she tries to bite my feet when I visit. Even though she chewed on my mom’s wedding dress because I tried it on. Even if she’s not at all what I had in mind when I would beg my parents for a baby sister.

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