Things Change 

A little over a year and a half ago, my family moved to beautiful Amelia Island. It was a place we had vacationed at for many years, but not a place I ever thought I’d call home. Shortly after moving, I wrote a blog post titled “What is home?”. The following passage ended that post.

Not long after my student career, my family moved to Florida. So here I am, in a place I used to consider a vacation spot, trying to figure out where home is. Or if home is even a place. Is it people?

All I know is this: I have learned to consider different places home and being with different people home. I appreciate each and every one of them and realize home will be forever changing, at least for a while. The comforting part is knowing no matter where I go, these people and places will welcome me back with open arms.”

I never in a million years thought I would become so attached to the little town of Fernandina Beach. But like the title of this post, things change. I have met some wonderful people through work, church, and the gym. It’s truly a tight-knit community of people from all over the country.

I love the historic downtown, the cute shops and eclectic mix of restaurants. I have witnessed breathtaking sunsets, enjoyed long walks on the beach, splashed my toes in the ocean, and learned so much about this place.

But things change, and it’s my time to move on in this world. This weekend I’ll get married. I’ll say goodbye to this villa by the beach. I’ll leave the ray-catching and bike riding, plantation walks and ice cream stops, and downtown festival-going to my parents. They better still live it up, that’s all I have to say.

I know I won’t be gone forever, and I’ll be able to visit soon enough, but as the sun faded into the horizon on my drive this afternoon, I couldn’t help but reflect on the sun setting on this phase of my life. Then today the sun rose, just as the next phase of my life began.

No, change isn’t easy. And no one ever said it had to be. But I’m going to choose to face this new year head on with my family, friends, new husband, and new home.

Until we meet again, island life.


Shine Your Light

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The children’s drama class performed two skits in church yesterday morning, and the second one really spoke to me and probably several other adults in the congregation.

This family was home during a tumultuous thunderstorm when the electricity went out. The brothers and sisters, bumping into furniture, searched frantically for flashlights. To their dismay, they had no batteries. Their parents helped them find a box of candles and some matches, but when they went to light them, the strangest thing happened.

The candles started speaking to them, giving them reasons as to why they couldn’t be lit right then.

“I’m busy meditating on enlightenment,” the first one said.

“I’m trying to get my life together,” said another.

“Now isn’t a good time,” the last one said.

The children were quick to point out to the candles that they’re supposed to be lit; it’s their job to shine light.

And they’re right. We’re here on earth to shine our light for God, yet so many times we come up with excuses, just like the candles, as to why we can’t right now. Either it’s not a good time, we’re too busy, or in our opinion our life isn’t together. But really there is no good excuse as to why we aren’t shining our light, especially since without faith, we can’t expect our lives to ever be together.

Sometimes we need to refocus on renewing our hope and shining our light. Life isn’t always perfect or easy, but it’s amazing how sharing our faith, time, or skills can make other people feel, as well as ourselves.

Our pastor said if our focus is on our comforts and abundance, that is a blatant disregard of the scripture of justice and generosity. And she’s right.

So many times we’re quick to complain, judge or ignore others, and pick the easy way out. Instead, we should be out there giving a helping hand, sharing a smile, sparing a dollar, or spreading hope.

Volunteer, give, donate. After yesterday, I know I’m going to work harder at letting my light shine and you should too. Trust me, we won’t regret it.

Taking a Look Back

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As I tossed and turned last night, trying to fall asleep, my phone lit up on my bedside table.

A CNN notification.

Another cop shot and killed. Another son dead, maybe even a dad, husband, father. And for what? Just another day at work. 

September 11, 2001. I remember this day very clearly. I was in fourth grade and the kids were talking about the planes on the playground. I remember my mother stopped by the school, popped her head in my classroom window and waved, and I didn’t know why. That evening, she explained to me what had happened. I watched TV, only to witness the children in the Middle East throw candy at a parade in praise of the successful terror attack. 

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I know I was just a kid, and maybe I don’t remember everything exactly, but I could have sworn that the events on this day brought America closer. People were compassionate, kind, honest, respectful. We came together to help each other, protect one another, feel for one another. But as days, months, years pass, it’s almost as if that moment, those feelings, those events, didn’t even happen.

This year I flew on September 11. I showed up to security just in time to be put on standby for a 9/11 ceremony. At exactly 8:46 a.m., everything and everyone in the airport stopped. There was a moment of silence. A lady sang the national anthem and it blared over the loudspeaker. A large American flag hung on the wall. It was a beautiful and meaningful moment, yet there were people complaining about waiting in line, talking through this ceremony meant to honor the thousands who lost their lives in such a tragic way. 

That night I attended a high school football game. There was no mention of it being September 11. There was no moment of silence among the crowd and players. It was like it was just another day. 

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What happened to respect, America? Where did it go? The problems in this country can somewhat only be blamed on those of us who live here and can only be fixed by those of us who live here. People bash the president like they expect him to be some sort of superhero. The President of the United States is not Superman, Batman or the Incredible Hulk. He’s not God. Heck, he’s not even a sidekick like Robin. He’s just a human being trying to do his job, but people act like he should be able to fix every single problem the way they want it fixed. And they expect it to happen with the snap of his fingers, like he’s a fairy godmother or something. 

I’m not saying people can’t share their opinions of him and other government officials. What I’m asking is, where has the respect gone? It used to be so real. And not just respect for our country and president but also for our neighbors, friends, co-workers, teammates. People were proud to be an American. Proud to live in the land of the free. Now, people abuse America’s freedom, acceptance, awesomeness. 

I wish America could come together again like we did in 2001, and it shouldn’t take another catastrophic event to make that happen. We may not agree with everything that goes on in the world, or even our country, but we should respect it and each other. We can have thoughts and opinions, but we should respect others thoughts and opinions as well. We should stop killing each other, because that’s certainly not fixing any of the problems within our walls. 

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I know these are just wishes of mine. I know some people would scoff at such juvenile thinking, and I know some people will completely disagree with how I feel. But it’s sad seeing people post #NeverForget every September 11 with photographs of the Twin Towers, because the reality might be that America has already forgotten. What are we trying to #NeverForget? The day? The heartache that followed? The way those in power handled it? The way we became prouder to be an American? The way we decided to stand up against those against us? If we truly never forgot how we came together back then, we wouldn’t be acting the way we are today. 

I wish everyone had the chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. It’s one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in my life. I wish people realized they are big enough to make a difference in the lives of others. I wish people would go back to treating others the way they want to be treated. I know life isn’t always butterflies and rainbows, but it would be nice to see respect and kindness come back into this country. And it starts with each and every one of us. We can make a difference, and we should. 

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Feelings


Feelings are a funny thing. We can’t always control them, they never disappear forever, and sometimes they show up uninvited. As my pastor said, feelings have been there long before we’ve had the words to explain them.

And isn’t that an interesting thing to think about. Even today there aren’t always words to explain the way we’re feeling. Sometimes it shows in our face or in how we’re acting, other times it’s deep inside, hiding in a place unnoticed by others.

Sometimes we’re overcome with emotion when we least expect it. Something happens and boom!

Like the other day. If I look back at the moment in slow motion, there was a rush within. I could feel my heartbeat in my head. Then, before I had time to process what was happening, the tears were flowing. Fogging up my new glasses. And I couldn’t get them to stop. 

In this three second emotional whirlwind, I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by my mother. Quite possibly the only person who understood in an instant and didn’t need an explanation of my sudden change in mood. 

We were shopping downtown, unfolding Simply Southern shirts one after another. As I went to the other side of the table, I ran across one that said ‘Nana.’ But it wasn’t just the word that got me- it was the blue color, the daisies placed in a Mason jar, the phrase ‘means love in the south.’

All of these things were synonymous with my Nana. My grandmother. My hero. The most beautiful person on this earth who was taken way too soon by cancer. And even though it’s been nine years, moments like these still occur when I least expect it. 

I ridiculously tried to hide my tears, make them stop, as I crouched down to read other shirts as quickly as possible. But God had other plans. 

On the bottom shelf was a pink shirt that read ‘Mimi’ and ‘sweetest person in the south.’ 

 

As hard as I try to understand, it’s not always easy to see why I had to lose both of my grandmothers so early in life. It’s only been a little over four months since my spunky, spirited Mimi left us, but dementia took her mind long before that. 

My mother has always said the devil did good when he created cancer. Well the same can be said for Alzheimer’s. 

I wish I didn’t get jealous when I see grandmothers and granddaughters hanging out, doing fun things, talking and laughing. I wish I didn’t get jealous of older people who still have living grandmothers and great-grandmothers. It’s not all the time I feel that way, and I’m working on it, but it’s enough to make me sit back and focus on how blessed I am despite these heartbreaking life events. 

I have a living grandfather who loves me dearly. I have amazing parents and brothers and friends. Aunts, uncles and cousins. I have a boyfriend who understands all of these emotions and thoughts and feelings, and when he doesn’t he listens anyway. 

I don’t really know the point in writing this, expect for giving my two loving, caring, simply wonderful grandmothers a shoutout. Two women who couldn’t make it to my college graduation, couldn’t see our new house, won’t be there on my wedding day. 

But at the same time, maybe I’m luckier than others. I have two angels watching over me, looking at my actions in everyday life. They can see more now than they could here on earth. They guide me, protect me, watch over me. 

As fast as summer is fading into fall, fall will turn into winter and winter will melt into spring. The leaves will come tumbling down, plants will die and then everything will be born again. 

Though we may not always have it all together, we’re able to grieve and cope and move on. We’re able to turn tears into smiles and into laughter, for there is certainly life after death. And my grandmothers must have been up to something together that day in the store. 

Sharing Spaces 


The strangest thing happened to me and my brother this summer. We had to become roommates. At ages 23 and 19, we had to compromise on furniture placement, room and bathroom colors, decorations and who got what side of the bedroom and closet. We spent days painting, cleaning and unpacking. 

My siblings and I have gotten along pretty well our whole lives but being the only girl and middle child has had its perks. I’m not used to sharing my space, even if up until now I had a teeny tiny bedroom and a twin bed. 

This summer changed all of that. My younger brother and I learned to live in a room where our beds are about a foot and a half apart. And honestly, I wouldn’t trade the past two months for anything. 

So here’s to the kid with more weird knowledge and strange facts than I ever care to know but enjoy hearing. Who has an inside voice ten times louder than the average person’s outdoor voice. Who takes ridiculously long showers that surely drown all the fish. 

To the kid who rarely complains about anything and will help out with everything, even if that means cleaning the bathtub or sorting the laundry. Who has more books than a Barnes & Noble yet still gave me two shelves in his bookcase for my books. Who sings at the top of his lungs in a way that should make your ears bleed but instead makes you join in or laugh. 

To the kid who stayed downstairs until the late hours of the night so he wouldn’t bother me when I went to bed. Who tried to be extra quiet when he finally decided to come up to sleep. Whose alarm clock would scare me half to death every morning and he wouldn’t even hear it. 

To the kid who eats everything I pick out for myself at the grocery store. Who never opened the blinds even though I asked him to several times, and when he remembered someone else would have already done it. 

To the kid who’s going to do amazing things in his life. To the kid I get to call my brother. And as he starts another year of college and I have this room to myself, all I have to say is… Roll tide, dude.

Call your sibling, even if he or she is too cool to answer or call you back (like my older brother). If you have a sister, call her, even if she borrowed your shirt and never returned it. Call your brother, even if he’s like, “Oh, I didn’t know you had a blog,” like the one this whole post is about. And for those of you in college, don’t forget to call your parents. 

The point is, sometimes family is all you have. So keep in touch, be thankful and let them know you’re thinking about them. Let them know you care, that you appreciate them and they are loved. 

 

Disney World: Where dreams come true 

Disney World will always be the place where dreams come true and memories are made, at least for me.

After finishing trip number 20 last week, I can’t help but realize I will always be a kid at heart. Actually, I always knew this, but seriously I will never be too old for Disney World. And I’m OK with that.

There’s just something about the magic of the place that makes me light up, makes my heart beat faster and turns my face into a big cheesy grin.

I’ll never get over the thrill of the rides, the exciting shows, time spent with family and friends and the charming characters walking around. I mean, I waited in a 60 minute line to meet Anna and Elsa. An entire hour for the 60 seconds it took to snap my picture and get my autograph book signed. (And yes, I still take an autograph book.)

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve gotten older the food and cocktail choices have also made these trips better. Whether it’s a Dole Whip, strawberry margarita, sizzling steak, Grey Goose Limon Slush – the list goes on. But I think it’s important to embrace your inner child, reminisce on favorites from the past, realize that it’s OK to act young and live in the moment. Have a Mickey waffle, a Mickey-shaped pretzel, a Mickey ice cream bar. Wear those Mickey ears and that lanyard of Disney pins. Allow yourself to be overcome with joy.

Kids these days are so caught up in looking older, acting older, growing up as quickly as possible. I think as they do get older, they’ll realize what they missed out on. Luckily for them, there will always be Disney World, if they even know who Disney characters are anymore. Why wish your childhood away?

There’s something about the smell and feel of the parks, the resorts, the stores and restaurants. And let’s not forget the parades and fireworks shows- I’m not sure which brings tears to my eyes more, the Wishes fireworks or a dazzling display to Let It Go. (I guess I’ll have to make another trip to figure it out.)

But the point is, Disney is for everyone. It continues to change and grow just as we do. It’s a place for laughing and dreaming. And in addition to exhaustion, blistered feet, a sun-kissed nose and too many souvenirs, you’ll leave with lifted spirits and a smiling heart. After all, believing is just the beginning.

People are like seashells

I think people are like seashells. Tossed around in the waves of life, thrown onto the shore; picked up, brushed off and it’s on to the next adventure.

Now that next adventure can be many things. We can be tossed back into the waves, struggling to keep our head above the water, falling until we can’t fall any further. We can be held onto, treasured, shown off to others. The waves of life aren’t always easy, yet sometimes it is smooth sailing.

I for one know that if I keep those I treasure most close to me, they’ll not only help me ride the wave, they’ll ride it with me. It’s important to let the people in your life know what they mean to you. More importantly, we must be there for them when they feel like the shells at the bottom of the ocean. When they feel like a kid jumping in the deep end for the first time. When they feel like they’re drowning in life.

The beach is a place where you can learn to wave your worries goodbye. Look at each person in life as a seashell, and look at your group of people as the beach. There to comfort you, help you, support you. We’re not always going to be the treasured seashell, but we’re not always going to be the ones buried in the sand either.

Unlike seashells, we have a say in our next adventure. We decide what to dive into and how to deal with each wave we ride. Sometimes we even get to decide the outcome. And we can always choose to stand up, brush ourselves off, move forward or try again when things don’t go as planned.

As Rachel Platten sings in “Fight Song” .. Like a small boat on the ocean. Sending big waves into motion. Like how a single word can make a heart open. I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.