How Do You End a Phase?

When does a phase become a rut?

Miranda and I had jokingly made a New Year’s Resolution in 2009 to “turn this douche of a life around,” but August rolled around and we hadn’t made much progress – okay, no progress except to re-title 2009 “Douche Awareness Year.”  And then came 2010.  After living in the Knapp House for four and a half years, I realized that I had gotten stuck in this idea of “Now What” and the limbo between college and the great expanse of the rest of my life.  As one of M’s coworkers once said, “What are the markers for the rest of your life once you graduate if you’re not married?”  It looked like this fairly happy, comfortable life could go on for an indeterminate period of time.

This freaked me out.

I had told myself I would use this time/phase of limbo to figure out what I wanted to do with my life; I had gotten lazy and settled for life as it was. The problem was, I simply had no good reason to change anything. I loved our house. I loved living with M for the most part (after four years of living together, anyone can get on your nerves, even a saint).  I loved my job, my environment, and the friendships I’d invested in.  There honestly wasn’t any big change I could see that would make me any happier than I already was.  But, I was way too comfortable while being unsatisfied at the same time.  Something had to change.  I barely felt like I was living; I found that I was just waiting for something new to happen, as if God would rain down answers.

So, by 2010, I realized I had to at least MENTALLY take a leap out of my limbo-phase mindset I’d become comfortably trapped in.  I had to mentally create for myself a marker of change from the “Now What” phase.  I wasn’t really in that limbo anymore.  I wasn’t married or having kids or whatever – fine – but I had progressed to some new phase of life.  I had pushed out of the wandering, figuring out phase and into the “Oh, these are the decisions I have made for my life” period.  It was time to stop waiting and embrace…something.

But, once again, there was that question – What did I want?  Even of what I had, what were the best parts I should do more with?  What could make life as good as I could make it? What would make life bigger, fuller, richer?

Thought. Thought. Thought.

Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.

I finally reached the conclusion that, in order to have my own life and do what I wanted, find what I wanted, be what I wanted, I needed to be on my own.  I was excited to branch out and start afresh, on my own – I REALLY had liked living on my own in Detroit, and I figured this would be even better since I had friends in Grand Rapids and wouldn’t feel so isolated.

But, for a variety of reasons, I stayed put.   However, God sends solace in odd ways, at least in my life.  In January 2010, for some reason our landlord decided that he would paint our entire house, and I made a fun two-week friend out of Painter Elf while they painted – surprisingly, with vibrant colors I myself would have picked.  For some reason, this simple change to my abode made me perfectly fine with continuing to live there.  It was a small change, but I’m an artist at heart and the sudden burst of color on the walls was enough for me to feel refreshed, I think.  So this got me through winter.

Then, in April 2010, I lost my job and had a rather intense week and a half of unemployment, during which I tried to decide all the more what I really wanted to be doing.  I realized that I had loved my job, to my surprise.  When I semi-miraculously had an exact replica of that job (but better!) dumped in my lap, I had to admit that maybe God had been showing me that what I wanted vocationally was exactly what I’d had.  Between the paint job and the new job, I was refreshed and surprisingly happy with where I was.  I’d made enough internal switches and mental leaps from the “Now What” that very few physical things actually needed to change.  Mind over matter, so they say, but it really did work and I felt prepared to continue onward and get better and better at contentment, if that makes sense. (This positive thinking was also oddly inspired by watching so much poker on TV.  Elizabeth Shannon, who I would not normally call anything like someone I admire, explained her whole approach to positive thinking in all areas of life, and for whatever reason that kinda stuck with me.)

In May 2010, M decided she wanted to buy a house.  And I moved with her.  This wasn’t exactly what I had planned, but it WAS a good end marker for the Knapp House, “Now What” phase.  Moving was a very physical change from all that, so maybe this was really the final thing I needed to completely snap out of my rut(s).  I was done waiting, done wallowing, done wondering.  I realized that I am not a person who needs goals or a specific list of things I want – I waste too much time trying to figure that out rather than taking what is in front of me and just going with it.  I have NEVER known what I want, so maybe that is kind of an answer in and of itself – I don’t have anything that I really want in order to be happy, so I find stuff along the journey and get contentment that way, or something.  “Let whatever happens happen” right?  Work with where you’re at.  Live in the Present.  And (like Kynacoba, my alter ego, in Book 4) I have to stop worrying and do what is best for me, because in the end, my life is up to me.

“Carpe diem.”

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

“Nut up or shut up.”

 So… Here’s a sum-up of the last days before I moved out on my own.

Summer 2010 – the Summer of Like

I hate moving.  Not that I fear change, I just hate packing.  And starting a new job in the midst of this transfer didn’t help.  But the freedom to paint gave me enough joy to make it through – my room looked like Avatar by the time my stress was done splirting all over the walls.

room

Honestly, though, while that house was M’s home, it didn’t feel like mine.  It was not a house I ever would have bought.  But it was okay.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

A not-like:  MONSTER BUGS.  House centipedes have got to be the nastiest buggers in the Midwest.  They eat spiders and other vermin, sure – it would not surprise me at all to hear they’re capable of taking down small rats – but they’re welcome to do that outside.  They have no fear.   They’re smart.  They’re fast.  I had 3 run right at me while I was trying to kill them.

So you’d think that our constant insistence that these little monsters were terrifying would have kept people from ever coming over, but people still were willing to stop in from time to time.  And it was THESE houseguests who were welcome, which led me to realization about myself #576,588:  I really, really like people.

  • We met our neighbor, Marc, and began a note-writing war back and forth that started with him leaving a gift on our porch one night with a note that said “PLEASE BE QUIET!” and ended with us telling him to paint his flowers white because we didn’t like pink.
  • Shark Week 2010 was particular fun with Racie when we lay on the couch until 1:00 a.m. and refused to put our feet on the floor for fear of the Monster Bugs.
  • I randomly had a drink with Elijah after 15ish years.  Funny how people you barely knew in grade school turn out to be cool.
  • I became better friends with Marcus not only because he had access to a pool…though, that was a big part of it.
  • We had a Girls’ Night at one point where we watched Newsies and the Disney version of Robin Hood because Rachel and I have cartoon-crushes on the fox.  We ate waffle fries and Ozzies (otherwise known as Flurries unless you were watching the Red Wings/Blackhawks Stanley Cup game with Joel).  It was good.  Dressing up is something I personally never have need to do, so it was fun to slap on makeup, dresses, shoes, and go out for drinks downtown afterward.  I don’t know why I’ve never felt as comfortable around women as men (okay, Haymarsh, you’re to blame somewhat), but this night reminded me why I DO like being around strong, intelligent, fun, funny women from time to time.
  • I cannot explain how joygasmic the 2010 Camping Trip was.  A big part of it was probably my ability to take my friends on my turf – the Haymarsh.  Nothing makes me as at peace as being home, with friends, showing them my world and hoping they might come away loving it even half as much as I do.  campAnd I think that mission was accomplished.  Lying around on blankets with friends all weekend between rain bursts, swimming in the lake day and night, sitting around the campfire, playing “Haymarsh Spa” with Rachel in the mud, getting Jeff and Kyle nearly lost as they not-so-soberly followed my hike back to the campsite after a midnight swim.  It was good.

Really, this summer was so busy it was kind of a blur.  But it was really good, probably one of my favorites ever.  It’s good to be around other people to the point where I climb out of myself for a while.  I fell deeply in love with things and people in my life that were already there, strengthening my resolve to take what I had and make life better.

Fall 2010 – Oh, Fall.  Nothing, it just felt like it needed an “Oh, Fall.”

I always think Fall is a good time of reflection – everything dying, days growing shorter, and you can just feel winter coming.  Fall’s slowing down is good; summer is when you need to be busy and active so you don’t look like crap in a bikini.  Fall also, however, means I stay inside more and therefore become more likely to let little things build and bother me more.  So, my new philosophy in my age of wisdom – trick yourself.  Stay so busy (at least mentally) that you don’t have time to fester.  I suppose this is still Elizabeth Shannon’s positive thinking trick.  Or Wendell Berry’s “joyful though you have considered all the facts.” In any case, Fall in Michigan is a very brief time period, so I didn’t think much of it and just enjoyed what came as we crawled inevitably toward Winter.

  • Sundays became my favorite day of the week.  Brooke, Joel, M, and I met for almost every Lions game at the Saz for lunch and the communal self-torture of watching the Lions.  Although, we take personal responsibility for the last 4 wins of the Lions 2010 season – every time we ordered the Pizza Sub, they won.
  • Halloween.  After the previous year, we weren’t sure how to top it.  So, I went on a decorating rampage and M built a ping-pong table hal why we thought it would stay ping-pong for any length of time before becoming beer-pong, I don’t know).  It was glorious.  I bounced around from group to group so much it was dizzying, which may be partly responsible for my fall on the floor in front of everyone, after which most of the full room asked “Are you alright?” while my brother just looked at me, knowing that me falling is not a rare event.  Anyway, it was a great Halloween.  You know it’s a success when I don’t even notice it’s 3:00 a.m. before everyone leaves.
  • Admittedly, each Fall I become introspective about life at least partially because, come 11/23, I get older. And being only one year shy of 30 (though still a far cry from 35, my scary age) probably heightened the intensity of this year’s introspection.   For my birthday, a bunch of us met at the Saz for drinks.  I really need to get over being surprised that I like people and people care about me, but this was yet another good reminder.  Way more people showed up than I’d planned – Joel, Rachel, M, Christian, Amy, Phil, Jeremy, Brooke, James, Andy, Brad, Josh and Sarah, Josh and Katie, Dan, Marcus, Brian, Jeff, and Ryan.  I could have done without the Tabasco-based shot, but fortunately I was clever enough to pass it around so that it was only about half-full by the time I had to drink the evilness.   And it was kinda funny when Ryan at one point asked me, “Is that the guy you’re seeing?” and I responded with, “No. Wait, which guy? Wait, no, it doesn’t matter.  No.” 

Winter 2011 – UEF Storm

Dear friend Rachel needed to move back from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids before going who-knew-where in the next Fall for law school.  Rachel’s presence, combined with Samson (her dragon/cat) made the usual winter hibernation much more bearable.   It was an adjustment getting used to three people in one house again, but if you haven’t picked up on my manic need for change by now…  Well, it was worth it. And with Rachel’s reappearance in our lives, the UEF (Unlikely Event Factor – from The Pigs Are Flying) rose considerably.

  • New Year’s Day – We thought it would be a great idea to have a big dinner for everyone at the house.  But, apparently we’re too old to stay up on New Year’s Eve and then be expected to be entertaining the next day.  Dinner was good, but then we all crashed on the couch.
  • Sarah Brown’s Baby Shower – As the first of our girl friends to have a baby, this was a little interesting.  Brooke, Christine, Miranda, and I sat on the floor in our own little word, planning a gauntlet-style baby shower for the next of us to get pregnant.  Then, later, we met the boys at a bar and went for dinner.  I bumped into Scott (ACS friend), who was drunk and gave me Mardi Gras beads…not sure what that was about.
  • Florida Trip – M and I had planned a road trip to go see Gloria way back when she’d first told us she was moving to Florida, floand of course doing so in winter was my idea.   Panama City, I must say, has a bit too much Alabama in its blood for my taste, but it was warm and that was really all we wanted.  Meeting Gloria’s boyfriend-and-future-fiance was great too, especially since we’d pre-stalked on Facebook.
  • Craigslist Adventure – Rachel and I should never be left to our own devices.  When bored one weekend without M’s supervision, we set up a fake Craigslist account and responded to every terrible man-seeking-woman ad we could find.  Some were nice-ish but boring, so we dropped them.  We were offered $500 for a night from “The King Door.”  Then, finally, we created an ad of our own which consisted of nerdy questions about Lost, Star Trek, and  Firefly.  We added “PS. I’m hot” at the bottom of our ad to amp up our number of responses.  Anyway, all of this led to an outing to meet one of these dudes because we were really bored and he promised free booze.  Let’s just say that the story ends with us meeting a leprechaun sex offender on St. Patrick’s Day.  (If you haven’t heard this story, feel free to ask.  It’s a gem.)
  • Fort Night – The next weekend, Rachel and I decided to limit ourselves to stalking the neighbor out the window with binoculars.  We took pictures of ourselves doing it and posted it on his Facebook wall, which led to entertaining back-and-forth commenting for the next hour or so before we got bored and built a fort in the living room.  Then we made a Meijer run to get Kool-Aid.

Spring and Summer 2011 – End Scene

  • “Super La-La  Mancha!” Making our 5th and final movie sucked up most of my time this summer, but it was kinda worth it.  Why are there not more superhero musicals?!
  • Camping 2011 was fun with the addition of Katie, Tracy, and the Browns (Sarah, Josh, Oscar, plus Carmen the dog).  
  • I watched the others enjoy their bowling league, and it was surprisingly fun to watch, especially the team of 80+ men who were awesome.

bowl

To my great pleasure, this year I lived with M at “009” turned out to be one of the best years I can remember.  When Rachel moved out for law school in Chicago, I decided that that would finally be a good time to get my own place again.  The end of this summer felt like a good…end.  And the beginning of a new phase.  I’d come to appreciate all the blessings I really had – family who get me through tense times, friends who are willing to camp, and a job that lets me make a full-length movie on the side.  I’d figured out what I wanted to hold to, what I wanted to drop, what I wanted to grow.

Onward and upward.

“Marry Me, Hunt for Free”

One of the most insulting things you can say to a single person is “We just want you to be happy.” My mental response is always, “Huh, thanks. Until you just told me I wasn’t happy, I thought I was.” Granted, I understand most 30-something women probably do want to be married.  And it certainly occurs to one – especially if that one lives in good old, conservative, family-oriented Western Michigan – that the next natural step in life after college and profession is to get married and start a family.  However, then there’s me.  I’m not saying I don’t want to get married; it’s just that I’m very, very good at being single and generally am happier when I don’t have to deal with the entire romantic realm.  However, I have to acknowledge that this is probably due to my various experiences…

Let’s catch up.

One would think that I got off to an earlier start in the romance department, what with my first kiss being when I was three and all.  I remember it perfectly.  Poised on the couch on his hands and knees, Broch (or was it Brody?) leaned down as I puckered and lifted my face to his from the floor below.  I believe we were playing Rapunzel and got our characters a bit backwards.  All this while our mothers looked on and mine took a picture that would haunt me for years.

However, it was all downhill after the age of three.  My well-practiced response to “Why aren’t you dating anyone?” is “If you knew my options, you’d understand,” and this truth started early.  In elementary and high school, the pickings were slim – like eeny, meeny, miny, oh-I-guess-you’re-the-best-I-can-do.  I have always had this thing about not settling, and even early in life I wasn’t one for wasting time – why put energy into a relationship with someone when you just know it isn’t right?  It’s not that I’ve ever been anything incredible, but none of the boys who liked me while growing up were quite…right.  Plus, I was a major tomboy, and I think my girl friends’ stupid flutterings over such characters as Chad and Kevin turned me off to the point that I never wanted to act like that.  So, I didn’t.  I maybe had a handful of crushes in my childhood, but I never acted like it – I had better things to do, I didn’t want to act girly like my friends, and my heart was never into anyone enough to give in to the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing. (Exception: Randy Emmery in 4th grade.  Every girl in my class liked him, he liked me, so I just kinda went with it and said I would be his girlfriend.  He made me a banner printed off on a dot-matrix that said “I Love You.”  I gave into peer pressure at recess and kissed his arm.  Yep, his arm.) In high school in particular, my romantic run-ins with guy friends started my abandonment issues, so I kind of started to hate the idea of love because it always meant I ended up losing a friend when I inevitably ended things.  But these were my options, and since they were all I had, I opted out of the whole affair.  It was just easier.  And better.

By college, I was honest enough with myself to realize that I was a mess, so I figured that being alone for a while and sorting out my issues was a good idea.  And, I was once again surrounded by silly girls who fluttered over boys. My earliest roommates in college constantly bemoaned that they were single.  One roommate would constantly sigh, “I’m going to die alone,” and another friend and I mocked this by repeating “I’m going to die alone” whenever we did anything remotely dumb, such as dropping a fork on the floor.  I grew incredibly sick of hearing the campus mantra of “if it’s God’s will” – which I like to believe God hates as much as I do.  Anyway, everywhere around me, couples were blossoming in young love.

I felt absolutely nothing. It was around this time that it occurred to me I might be screwed up in the love department.  Why was I refusing to even consider the idea of liking someone?  Was it just learned behavior to protect myself from getting screwed over by people close to me – ahem, high school?  I’d refused to care for so long that I wondered if I ever would find anyone to make me care. My Aunt Sharon has a poster that had always haunted me – a woman stands, her back to the painter, looking out a window at the world, an empty room behind her.  I realized that I didn’t want to turn into that.  I was also haunted by the fact that I’m supposedly related to Emily Dickinson, whose love life was so bad that reportedly she didn’t fare a particularly cheery life.  (We covered her poetry in a Lit class once, and it didn’t help that, when I told my professor of my relation, his only response was “Why does this not surprise me?” I’m still not sure how to take that.)

Also, I’d by this time noticed a pattern in my suitors – I seemed to attract only complete losers who were convinced they were god’s gift to womankind.  As my brother quoted for me, “I wish I could attract men like crazy instead of crazy men.” I hate the whole caste system of knowing your own league, but it might be right.  (I know how arrogant that sounds, but keep in mind that I  attracted some serious weirdoes.)  I had first laughed at this pattern, but now I wondered if I was being too exclusive.  Maybe I had become the Ice Queen I’d been accused of being in high school. It was here that I developed an “inferiority complex about my superiority complex” (yes, I just quoted Buffy).  I felt bad for holding myself aloof as if no one was good enough for me.  Maybe someone would surprise me after all, and how would I know if I wouldn’t give them a chance?  So, I decided to loosen up my “I won’t waste time if he’s not quite right” stance.  I’d be more open.  I wouldn’t immediately reject guys who showed interest, not even the usual weirdoes who plagued me.

Bad move.  By trying to make something out of nothing, I only let guys get too attached to me, and I quickly realized that sometimes you do have to be cruel to be kind, even if it means I lose a friend and once again fuel the fire of my abandonment issues.  I learned the hard way that sometimes you have to nip a problem in the bud before the other person gets the wrong idea.  After one particular experience where I let things drag on for far too long before ending it, I realized that I could never, never hurt someone like that again.  And it killed me to try when I knew my heart wasn’t in it.  It was far better to be alone than to be with someone I wanted to push off a cliff…not hypothetically speaking.  I think the idea that “I can handle being alone alone, but I can’t handle being alone with someone” is pretty much what I’ve always felt.  (And there’s an Ally McBeal quote.)

As college went on, because freaks were the only type of men who were interested in me, I developed a completely anesthetized reaction to the opposite sex as a whole.  It was simply easier to turn off.  And it was easier to laugh about the fact – I hold to the truth that it was a fact – that I attracted only losers. And I wasn’t the only girl suffering this problem in college, for my roommate Gloria was also so sick of being creeped out that she also avoided the relationship issue entirely.  We weren’t sure how to fix our jadedness, but in our twisted, mildly crazy, typical way, we turned romance into a joke.  Our apartment was already known as the Protestant Nunnery, and we named our apartment door The Door of Sarcastic Girly-ness.  We taped to the door pictures of babies, “perfect” men, reasons women are stupid, and a compatibility chart with trick questions.  It was a joke, but also an open declaration that there was something warped about our view of love.

Baby steps have always been my method of healing.

Later, in Detroit, I fear my jadedness only got worse.  I certainly noticed guys more, but it was for professional purposes as a model scout, so I wasn’t any less numb.  Some of my female coworkers couldn’t work up the nerve to approach some of the prettier specimens, but I was so numb that I could have talked to…who was popular at the time, Orlando Bloom? I was basically encountering men and saying (literally), “he’s pretty,” without so much as a flutter.  Also, it was still true that my only suitors were, as my friend Carmen said, “sorry men.”

When I moved back to Grand Rapids, I realized that I should probably stop making excuses and get on with this supposed next step of life. I felt free to get over my jumbled past love life and try.  Okay, that’s a lie.  Once I moved back to Grand Rapids, I was happy with where I was and so didn’t bother.  And anyway, what were my options?  Most of my guy friends were more asexual than plants, and the thought of going out just to meet guys has always made me want to chew off my own hair.  There were random blips on the romance radar every few months or so, but I held to my standards and didn’t let things continue once I knew it wasn’t going to work for me – this is the one lesson I’ve held to that I’m absolutely sure is the right way to go.

So that about catches us up to now.  Because I like lists, I hashed out the below revelations about my love life:

    • I’m “low maintenance to the point of seeming indifferent.”
    • I like the idea of commitment, but I’m terrified of committing to the wrong thing.
    • I would murder Prince Charming.
    • One of my rather anti-girl characteristics is that, even with “The One,” I would need serious space.  I need my space and individual identity or else I feel squeezed, not known, and then freak out and panic.  I don’t like clingy.  I could never spend my life with someone who actually believed the Jerry McGuire line about “you complete me.”  I prefer to get different things from different people, and I don’t want to rely on any one person for my personal completion. I need someone with interests and hobbies and friends and work that is just his so that I know he’s a fulfilled person already and I’m just adding to the party.
    • I’m passive-aggressive about my abandonment issues.  I always do everything in my power to make sure guy friends don’t like me so that I don’t have to hurt them or lose a friend later.  This includes the use of decoys, most notably Drake Metcalf, who is a fake, Joaquin Phoenix look-a-like we created on Facebook to use as a fake boyfriend whenever one of us needs him.
    • It’s my own fault if guys get the wrong idea.  I’m very open honest, and unfortunately this gets translated as my being this way only with you.  Also, it doesn’t help that model scouting left me with raging objectivity – I am very free with compliments to men in my life, and while I really do mean them, I don’t mean them. This leads to all kinds of misunderstandings.
    • I’ve never had a “type.”  Attraction/chemistry, for me, just kind of happens based on something I can’t put my finger on. What I’m attracted to is that thing of connection that I can’t explain – a comforting, natural surprise where someone is and does what fits without having to work at it.  Something that makes me think, “THAT!”
    • I need someone who respects me but is going to stand up to me when I am being stupid or stubborn or wrong.  I need someone not intimidated by me, someone stronger, bigger, and more dominant than me – I don’t like feeling like I wear the pants in a relationship, and I lose interest immediately if I’m not challenged.
    • As Kaly once said, “I want someone who is brave enough to wake me at 3 am to tell me to look at the meteor shower.”
me
Semi-Joke: “Why do people like me?!”

While lying in bed one night, unable to sleep, I started counting sheep.  However, I don’t know any sheep.  So, instead I switched to counting what I like to call my Almosts.  These are the boys/men/mutants in my life who fall into any one of the following categories: Outright boyfriends, guys I’ve almost dated, guys who had crushes on me, etc.  Basically, anyone who was in any way a romantic prospect.  After thinking through my entire life history, I came to a total of 43…make that 44. 

 Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a few stories/examples.

My First Nerd
As a teen, I helped out at a church camp one summer where a totally scrawny geek with Coke-bottle glasses, a mullet, and a windbreaker winked at me and blew me a kiss from across a crowded sanctuary.

Rob Stuut
In high school, some random basketball player from another team left a note for me on one of my projects that had been left in a classroom where the team had been for halftime.  The note contained his phone number and a message about how I was “lookin’ fine.” To my slight amusement and extreme embarrassment, a few of my male classmates called the guy and had a little fun with him, pretending to be my angry father and brothers.
Even funnier, years later my friend Reka from college turned out to have gone to the same school as this guy.  She remembered him well and had even had a crush on him.

“Partial to Ya”
Ever since Bob Palma’s son and I went to elementary school together, Bob had tried to fix us up.  This wasn’t so annoying in middle school, but skip forward about a decade and it will get on a girl’s nerves.  See, Bob was a member of the Haymarsh Hunt Club, and therefore I still saw him even once far removed from elementary school.
Every summer since I began working at the Hunt Club in 8th grade, Bob was in the Sporting Clays league.  This meant I saw him and his friends every Monday during the summer season.  And, every Monday, he would remind me that “Mike was partial to ya” back in elementary school.  I tried being polite for the first couple of years, but after a while being a smart ass about it seemed acceptable.
It was particular fun because the men on Bob’s league team became about as exasperated with Bob as I did.  Dan Banister was my hero and will forever bear the title Favorite Hunter in my mind.  Dan is Bob’s nephew, I think, and whenever Dan was around Bob would be on his better behavior, for some reason.  One time, Dan came directly to my aid and said, “There’s such a thing as harassment, you know.”
Another time, Bob wasn’t doing very well shooting and he yelled from the station, “If you give me a pair together, I’ll bring Mike next time!”
I shouted back, “Boy, there’s an incentive!”
The rest of the men in the group cackled with laughter.
Bob did not get a pair together.

That Damn Ad
One day during a hunters’ catered lunch, there was a man who was relatively within my age range – this was rare.  Naturally, my grandfather thought we should meet.  (It was very similar to my mother’s approach when I was young – if a person was my age, we were destined to be friends.  Hmm.  I wonder where she picked that up!) Anyway, I flat out told my grandfather that I didn’t care and wasn’t interested.  He then took a bite of his bread and said – almost jokingly – that I should put up a “Marry Me, Hunt for Free” ad on the clubhouse’s bulletin board.
I did not forget about this, but somehow everyone else managed – only, I didn’t realize they’d forgotten.  So, one Sunday before Sunday school, we were all sitting around and chatting.  My Aunt Penny happened to mention that she had run into a “gorgeous” hunter that morning who had an accent and was younger.  My brother jumped in and said what a shame it was that our then-single cousin Stefanie hadn’t been there.  (She suffered as much as I did, I must admit.  I will forever love her for it.)
Then, I did a thing I will long regret: I mentioned the “Marry Me, Hunt for Free” ad.
My Aunt looked at me and started laughing as if she’d never heard this before, and she said, “That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all week!”
Well, the commotion caught everyone’s attention and I had to repeat the ad title to the entire Sunday school class.  One lady asked what “Marry Me, I Have a Degree” was about, and I corrected her and gave her the right line.
My brother then pitched in and said, “Yeah, like Grandpa cares if you have a degree or not? How is a degree going to help you cook or clean?”

Model Rejection
While working as a receptionist for the model management company, I regularly had to welcome people who came for their interviews.  Now, some people think they could be models for reasons that are completely lost on the rest of us.  One man, who definitely qualified as a leader in this group, came in one night after being late for his previous three interviews.  Because he was early this time and had to wait, I had to put up with him while he sat on the waiting room couch.
“Are you married?”
“No,” I answered.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
Without blinking, I said, “Yes.” (Normally, I at least hesitate before lying, but I didn’t this time.  That should tell you how bad he was.)
“Oh,” he said disappointedly.  “I guess that ends this line of questioning, then.  Can we be friends?”
I chuckled in a non-committal way and got up from my seat to see if the person interviewing him was finished yet.  They weren’t, but I hid in a back office until they were ready to take him.  Then, the person interviewing him told the guy that he would be considered as a model, but only if he stopped hitting on the receptionist.  When he left, the guy didn’t even make eye contact with me on his way to the door.
He was rejected anyway.

Suicide Prevention
Grandpa Bud and Grandma Marie came over to tell us about a funeral they’d been to.  A young man from the community had killed himself, and it was really sad because he’d been a smart guy, everyone had liked him, and apparently he’d been a good-looking kid.  He was also a hunter who had been to the Club once or twice.
Grandpa looked at me and said without joking, “Too bad you never met him.  Then he wouldn’t have killed himself.”
I looked at Mom in amazement, but she could only stand there with that look of helplessness I know well. 

Freddie Mercury
At a bar with friends in Grand Rapids, a Freddie Mercury looking older guy came to our table and deposited a beer for me.
Brooke joked, “Don’t drink it. There’s probably a roofie in it!”
He then kept coming over to check if I was enjoying the beer and to tell me that it was much better in a glass than a bottle, so that was why he had asked for it in a glass.  Okay, great.

Denver, The Fun Period
Rachel thought she was a brilliant matchmaker, and this picture ended up on our frig.
denv

Walgreen Hookup, Aisle 4
I went to Walgreens one day and sat in my car for a moment to turn off my phone.  A guy walked by my car with a look that I interpreted as, “Oh, it’s a white girl who’s going to sit inside her car until I’ve safely walked by.”  So, I defiantly hopped out of my car and started following him to the door.
He turned and said, “Hello.”
I took this as a challenge and responded with a perky, “Hey.”
He then let me enter the store before him.  I thought that was the end of it, but then he came down my aisle and said, “I have to tell you, I think you’re beautiful.  You have the most gorgeous eyes I’ve ever seen.  I just couldn’t leave without telling you.”
I muttered thanks.  I thought that was the end of it, but I got out to my car and found Dre’s phone number in my car window. 

Why the Word “Prospect” Is Ruined for Me
In one of those instances where groups of friends converged, we in the Knapp House met a whole group of guys who were wonderful if for no other reason than that they were new and we needed new people desperately to mix things up (enter Group Yay).  One, however, decided he would like me a little too much.  Carl even invited me to India, which would not be so odd except that this would be the third random person who had told me I would like India.
Enter passive-aggressive, unlikable Sunny, but even that in all my glory didn’t stop his interest entirely.
However, after a few weeks of my girl friends laughing at me, I was slightly vindicated when it turned out he considered all of us “prospects.”  Yes, Carl told us we were “prospects” to our faces.  Talk about making a bourgeoning friendship awkward, especially when Miranda and I were both invited to India: “It would be completely platonic.  Of course, if something were to happen…”  Here he sheepishly (he may have thought he was cute) rubbed his hair.
Fortunately, Carl ended up staying a friend longer than average, and we would later go on to joke that he had become my non-gay gay best friend.  He was also the only person I ever bitch-slapped.

Giants Fan
Just when I thought maybe I wasn’t a magnet for freaks anymore, the girls and I went to a Lions football game.  The game sucked – that’s hardly a surprise – but by the fourth quarter the row of men in front of us didn’t care because they’d had 48 beers between them.  The one on the FAR END FROM ME who was sitting directly in front of Rachel at one point turned around and obviously looked the three of us over.  Seeing/sensing what was coming out of the corner of my eye, I stared down intently at the field.  The man reached OVER Rachel and Miranda’s legs and laid a hand on my knee.
“Why do you look so bored?”
(Sidenote: I get asked this way too often, not only by creepy men.  Once at a concert in a local lounge, the singer/songwriter actually stopped between songs to look at me and ask if I was bored.  It must just be a look on my natural face?)
For once, with this guy I had a reasonable excuse. “I’m watching this game, aren’t I?”
He kept blathering on for a while, and I kept obviously ignoring him.  (Did I mention the entire row of men were over 45 and looked like the average Hunt Club member? If memory serves, there was a lot of plaid involved.)
By the time the game was over, Rachel and Miranda were nearly falling out of their seats with laughter.  My new friend wished me well and left my life forever.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Stop It
Rachel is not subtle.  It got to the point where I became very wary of being near any guy whenever I saw Rachel with a camera at a party.  I also learned to make not-so-subtle faces in response to what I knew she was doing. 

boys

Maid of Honor
For Kaly’s wedding, I had the whole Maid of Honor thing pretty easy. $40 total. However, being single led to the mother of the bride (who is also like an aunt to me) thinking there must be someone to hook me up with.  I’m not entirely against the idea of being fixed up, but this wedding was in Sparta.  In a barn.  Where country music was played.  I like to think I’m not an elitist snob, but line dancing is crossing a…line.
I ended up telling people a variety of things to get away before being introduced. My excused escalated from “I’m happily single” to “I’m not interested” to at one point “I actually have a pretty severe crush on someone right now, so I don’t think I could find anyone else attractive right now if I tried” which was a complete lie.  I later realized how sad it was that I couldn’t even think of who I could have a fake crush on.  I may have dropped Drake Metcalf’s name a time or two.
Fortunately, so much booze was flowing that everyone soon forgot about trying to fix me up.  Though, the best man’s girlfriend did grind on me, and I’m still a little troubled by that one.

Pepe Le Pew (alternate title:  The Worst Valentine’s Day Ever)
I’ve developed a radar for what I term “twitterpated face.” This means that a guy clearly is starting to think I might be a good idea.  I then become more annoying, but unfortunately this sometimes gets translated as me being cute – go figure.  One Valentine’s Day, I was at a bar with some friends, and by 2:00 a.m. a new guy was aglow with “twitterpated face.”
When we finally left, I discovered that my LOST Dharma light on my key chain works as a kind alternative to Mace, because we stood in the parking lot by my car for a bit, it was clear what he wanted, and I kept flashing him in the face to keep him at least at arm’s length.  Then I SHOOK HIS HAND, went to get in my car, and suddenly a hand was on my waist.  At this point, I went to my usual place of “Oh, frak it – he’s drunk, just put up with it until he leaves.”  He kinda pinned me against my car and kept looking at me and asking, “Nothing, really?”  And I kept shaking my head and going “Ut-uh. Nope.”  Finally, he backed off and said he’d see me later.  But as I turned to my car, he pecked my cheek.  I muttered something like “Razzin’ frazzin” and got in my car, at which point hysterical laughter took hold.
The next morning, I woke up because some connection my brain had been trying to make finally clicked – Pepe le Pew!  I hopped out of bed, emailed Racie the rest of the story of what happened after she left, and got on Facebook to post a clip of Pepe le Pew on her wall. 

Last Single Granddaughter
My family means well, but…
As soon as my cousin Stefanie got engaged, all attention shifted to me.  Aunt Penny, my mother, and Gma Gummer combined their powers and intensified their matchmaking efforts on my behalf – unsolicited, I add needlessly.  When I went home to help with a Pampered Chef bridal shower, I was helping my mom with her hair when this happened:
Mom:  Your aunt thought she found a good guy for you at the concert last weekend, but then she found out he was poor and so scrapped that idea.  But it doesn’t matter anyway, because your dad and I have a better guy.
Me:  Super.  Who the _____? (I don’t remember exactly which edited expletive I used.)
Mom:  Randy’s son.  He has his own house.  And a plane, so your dad approves.
Later at the shower, Aunt Penny explained her side of this exactly as my mom had told me.
Penny: …And he likes bread!
Me: (laughing) Oh, well at least we have that in common!  A love of bread is foundational to a relationship, so I’ve heard.  (turning to Stef) Have I mentioned, thank you so much for getting married!
Later still, Aunt Penny realized what an amazing haul Stef was getting from the shower and yelled to me across the room, “Sunny, when you get married, we’re doing one of these for you!”
I fake chuckled and went on cleaning, only to hear my grandmother throw in, “Just don’t wait too long, or I won’t be around.”
Yep.

 _____

Justin, one of my wonderfully platonic friends (with the exception of one hiccup that I’m pretending never came up), is always a good sounding board for whining about my sucky love-life.  We had a conversation one night where he helped me discover that I finally had a goal for my life – to die alone.  It was a goal I felt I could accomplish, and I’ve always needed direction. (Goal #2 is to find a briefcase full of money which I will partially use to build a music studio where Justin and my brother can record music, and my payment will be that they will write a song about how much they adore me.)
Justin: “I take it you don’t want kids?”
Me: “I firmly believe that you should want to have kids with someone, and so far I haven’t found anyone to make me want to vacate the dust bunnies from my uterus.”

And that about sums it up.  Miranda and I joke that we’ll probably end up settling beyond our worst nightmares, but I don’t see this happening.  I’m not so bored with being single that I’m going to abandon my #1 life goal.

How Atheists Made Me a Better Christian

For some reason, my brain when I was younger told me that I would reach some point where I would be a finished product and be done learning, rooted in an unchanging outlook.  It was a comforting idea, but then I discovered that we never really stop growing, never stop learning, and never are 100% certain we’re doing the right thing.

I like people who push me and challenge me and don’t let me get away with my usual crap.  Back in Grand Rapids, there was the not-so-small matter of befriending a bunch of atheists, or as my friend James terms their group “evangelical atheists.”  I was very happy about this because it meant I had access to people who did not share my beliefs about faith and who had many of the same problems with religion that I did. Happy, because by now I craved difference and getting to know people and what makes people tick.  (As a matter of fact, we called this group “Group Yay!” because I was so happy to have new people at all.)  I wanted to be pushed and forced to grow my faith and understanding, and everyone else in my life was basically in my camp.  Group Yay would force me to look at my faith in a much more objective way.

I know at first they looked on us – Miranda and myself in particular – as good little Christian girls who were educated but indoctrinated (if not outright brainwashed).  I caught the smirks whenever Cornerstone University was mentioned.  I noted that they were very careful not to offend us about God or the Bible.  But there was room for growth here, on both ends, and I took this as a challenge.  I am a big believer in spending time with people as a means of showing what you believe.  I’m also very big on shocking people who think they have me figured out.  So, we didn’t Bible-thump; we drank with them on our porch. We mixed them in with our CU friends who are just as liberal, if not more so, than they were.  Gradually, Group Yay began to see that we were not exactly what they’d expected.  This opened things up for mutually respectful conversation without worrying about stepping on toes.

That is one of the first great things I learned about these atheists – they weren’t all in your face about it.  Many of them respected our faith because they respect the morality it brings.  They liked the Church because, as James put it, he liked the love he received whenever he went there. Evangelical atheists though they claim to be, they didn’t want to hurt anyone, or at least not us once they knew us.  It’s hard not to compare this to evangelical Christians.  I’d much rather discuss with someone what they believe when they are respectful rather than calling me a sinner.  My atheist’s approach of winning me over was, well, by being loving.  

Not that they won me over to their overall point, but they won me over to themselves, certainly.  We differ on some key points about life and reality, of course, and at the end of the day you have to just agree to disagree about some things.  Is there any belief, really, that is worth severing ties with people?  The point of this life is not to be right but to be decent to people and share the Truth.  If they don’t accept that Truth, that is their decision.  We can be sad about what they are missing out on – and about what might come after this life – but that is absolutely no excuse for shutting people out or marking them as losses and moving on to someone who might listen.

One difference I noticed about my atheist friends and the average Christians I had gone to school with was, sadly, intelligence.  I hate when Christians simply answer tough questions with “Because God said so.” Atheists pride themselves on seeing through lies and mysticism and getting to the logical facts, or at least reasonable speculations.  A big reason many of my atheist friends had turned from Christianity was because that Christianity didn’t make sense.  Of course there is the argument that faith is not about knowing, and the bottom line of this I wholeheartedly agree with, but that doesn’t mean we should not look for answers.  As far as matters of science, who made science?  If God made science, how can science not show facets of God?  Any reasonable Christian who believes that God is responsible for the universe should be able to grasp this.  But, for whatever reasons, we’ve come to think in terms of science vs. religion.  We shouldn’t.  If atheists think they have everything figured out in their system but we believe differently, then we should be able to make logical arguments.  And that means we have to at least make an attempt to study, learn, and know what we’re talking about and trying to defend.

More than anything, I think nonbelievers’ perspectives on the Church are noteworthy.  I’ve read I Sold My Soul on eBay and agreed with basically everything the man said.  (I was especially relieved that he liked Mars Hill, where I used to go on occasion because it is beautifully refreshing.)  For the most part, our church services are in no way easily accessible to outsides, or “searchers” as we like to call them.  Isn’t the spread of the Gospel supposed to be our job?  Why are we preaching to the choir?  Or, worse yet, why are we saying from the pulpit that we’re better than them?  It was mortifying one Sunday when Christian and I were home for a service and our Pastor told a joke about Fool’s Day being Atheist Day.  Wow, that wouldn’t have turned off any of my uber-intelligent atheist friends at all.

Of course, it didn’t take befriending atheists to make me disappointed with the Church in general.  Many of the same things that bothered me in high school and college still bother me.  I hate the belief that the way witnessing used to work is still the only way that will work in our changing culture.  I hate that many Christians condemn anything outside our bubble; I hate that we don’t condemn enough inside.  I hate the quality of Christian media and the excuse that it’s all good because it is of God.  I hate that we close ourselves off.  I hate that the world often has to teach us about Love and yet we think we alone are capable of it.  However, I also don’t agree with those who say that we should scrub everything and start anew.  I think we need to reclaim what Christianity originally meant.  What do we really need to believe?  What has entered our religion that is complete hooey? We need to reexamine the angles, regroup, and stick to what Jesus would encourage.  Foot washing anyone?  I think Protestants have gone too far in turning our noses at tradition, and this is one thing I really appreciate about Catholicism – it is rooted in a history. There are sacraments, holidays, etc. that are worth holding to because they connect us to something bigger than ourselves.  Jesus was a part of a traditional religion, wasn’t he? (Sorry, ACS, but he was Jewish.)  It’s a good thing to remember we are links on a chain, a part of something broader and deeper than ourselves – it holds us more accountable when we’re arrogant and self-centered.  We are not gods.  God does not need us to war for him.  Even Jesus walked away from some people. It is not imperative that we are right if it means beating others down, and you can not force Faith. The very least we can do is at least make it look appealing, like a community people should actually want to be a part of.

Another interesting thing about atheists is that they seem to place high value on morality.  By this I mean ethics, humanitarianism, etc.  These should be very Christian concepts, and it should be one point of common interest that we have.  Just because someone is not a Christian doesn’t mean they can’t do incredible good in the world – and inadvertently be used by God whether they like it or not.  Look at Oprah.  Or Angelina Jolie.  Or the Dalai Lama.  You wanna tell me God doesn’t smile on their work?  In this life, we should work together with anyone and everyone who wants to do God’s work of taking care of the orphan, the homeless, the widow.

Whenever one of my atheist friends goes through a hard time, I am reminded how blessed I am.  Simply having faith that there is meaning in life makes a huge difference.  Believing that Someone is in control helps.  Believing that this is not all there is helps.  I remember at Grandpa Bud’s funeral seeing this distinct difference – Gpa’s friends who were not believers were absolutely in grief, whereas we had hope.  I think that I largely cried at his funeral for them.  It’s also a wonderful blessing that I have God to talk to when I can’t talk to anyone else.  A personal relationship with God is an amazing part of faith that the atheists I know scoff at, of course.  But even acupuncturists (I know this from my job) recommend meditation.  It is good for us to take a pause and “relax the body, entrain the mind, and commune with spirit.”  I think God wired us so that it is good for us – “be still and know that I am God.”  An even greater part of this is that God listens.  And since he knows me better than I know me, I think that also means he puts up with me better than I do.  He has to love me, if you think about it.  It’s very freeing.  Yes, he’s God and should be respected and feared, blah, blah, blah.  But we’re also supposed to be honest with him.  Job yelled a lot, if memory serves.  So did Moses.  I don’t know of any healthy relationship where one person bottles emotion from the other.  God knows when I am mad or hurt or confused, so why not tell Him?  I’m not saying I want to curse out God, but there are plenty of people in the Bible who seem to have voiced their doubts rather strongly.  Aren’t we just being as open and honest as possible when voicing our frustrations to God?  He can take it.  And, maybe that’s part of why he lets shitty things happen to us in the first place – it forces us to come to him.  

Along those lines, we believers should be able to share with each other too – we have a community.  But why are we so afraid to share with each other?  When we’re hurting, isn’t the body of Christ where we should seek comfort?  Why can’t we ask for help?  My atheist friends point out that this is because we’ve become so incredibly self-righteous that we fear each other’s judgment.  Um, good point.  Also, we as Christians have deluded ourselves to think that we should be perfect.  We should never hurt.  We are above all that.  We are not flawed.  We do not struggle.  If we do, we are dirty and must need to repent of something.  But, Jesus practically promised that this life was going to suck if we followed him as we should, so why are we confused when life gets us down?  “Pray for me” usually only comes up when someone had medical testing or a job interview.  Again, I think Catholicism kinda has us here – there is something delicious about spilling your guts to a priest’s listening ear, isn’t there?  Especially when that listening ear is supposed to have his shit together more than me.  Anyway, we should share our struggles and pains with each other.  We all go through turmoil, so what is that turmoil good for if not to empathize with each other?  It would teach us a lot of about loving the outside world if we were capable of loving each other.

Confession:  I have a very, very hard time loving stupid, wrong people.  Aunt Sharon once pointed out that I “do not suffer fools lightly.”  And since I try so very, very hard to show God’s love to people outside the Christian bubble, clearly I should have more tolerance for people inside that bubble.  But I focus maybe a little too much on how Jesus spoke out more often against the Pharisees than he did against the nonreligious.  He tried to heal the sinners and lead them to a better life, yes, but he seemed angriest with those religious people who should have known better.  But, I really do believe that love is a key point of what we’re supposed to be showing as Christians, and following Jesus’ example all around is probably something I should focus on.  He might have rolled his eyes at the disciples and religious people, but he loved them enough to be gentle too.

So, yeah, there are a lot of ways atheists make me a better Christian – not just the ones I know personally.  They challenge me and make me sort out what I believe, which forces me to understand God more.  I see non-Christians who are living good and I want to be like that.  I see non-Christians who are serving and loving others, and I know I should be better.  I think that, somehow, even nonbelievers can be used to show us examples of Christ.  And I know absolutely that I am supposed to reflect God right back at them.  That’s the rough part.  And, I guess, the whole point. 

Movie Magic Word

I am a manipulator.  If I had a superpower, it would be mind-control.  I learned at probably a too-young age how to get what I want (it didn’t hurt that I was adorable), and ever since then I admit I’ve enjoyed working people.  Christian and I often quote Conan O’Brien when he was making puppet motions and sing-saying, “I like to play with peeeople.”  But I DO try to use this power for good.  Most of the time.  Or at least for entertainment. People who know me usually at least raise an eyebrow when I seem up to something, but if I ask nicely with a “please” I can usually get my way.  This is not exactly healthy, I’m sure, but I can live with that.  Why?  Because it has led to some really entertaining movies.

My friends fortunately have the same sarcastic, over-the-top, ridiculous sense of humor that I have, and we’re a bunch of creative, artsy types that tend to be a little over-dramatic in all the right places.  Therefore, it didn’t really take much to talk them into making movies with me. But I  still have no idea why they were willing to sacrifice so much dignity for the sake of the scene…

I Dream of Sasquatch

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During our last summer together as roommates, Gloria and I were watching a documentary about Sasquatch.  It was terrible, and one of us blurted, “We could do better than this!” Thus an idea was born.  For the next week or so, we began a list of ideas on how to make a mockumentary about hunting Sasquatch.

  • Since our funding was limited, we would rent a camera from college and film at my family’s hunting preserve.
  • We would use peanut butter cups and Skittles as bait.
  • We would use my parents’ camping gear and get my dad to pour gas for our bonfire for night-shoots.
  • We would dress my brother as Sasquatch in inside-out coats, gloves for his feet, etc. – THAT, by the way, is the first movie example of getting people to do what I wanted no matter how ridiculous my request. And, as my brother, Christian really should have known what he was getting himself into.
  • Since we didn’t know any actual Sasquatch experts, we would interview a few of our college professors  – the fact that they barely blinked before coming up with  Sasquatch lore off the tops of their heads was awesome.
    Us: “Do you believe in Sasquatch?”
    Stevens:  (long answer)”…If you’re out there, Bigfoot, I’m here for you.”
    Bonzo: “No.  But Yeti, that’s another story.”
    Duff: “I’m a seeker.”

230619_219014004795390_5974327_nIt was so much fun.  We had only a basic outline of a script and so made up a lot as we went along, and it was a great learning experience as the three of us – me, Gloria, and Christian – stumbled (often literally) through making our first movie at the Haymarsh.  Of course, we had no clue what we were doing aside from Christian’s guidance as the lone film major on “set,” and this lack of experience is further evidenced by the fact that our editing process basically consisted of putting the scenes in the right order.  But, turns out, it was kinda hilarious and charming.  We somehow even worked in a dream-sequence where Gloria dances with Sasquatch to the song “I Hate You, Then I Love You” by Celine Dion.  Spoiler alert:  At the end of the movie, Gloria and I haven’t found Sasquatch and so pay a hobo (Christian) to dress as Sasquatch so that we can claim success. And we accidentally kill a guy.

LoveNotReally

487672_475577845805670_1249807734_nFor our second movie, we decided to do a romantic comedy with a script 95% composed of quotes from other movies, TV shows like Arrested Development, etc.  We got a little bit more serious about the production on this one — in that we had a script at all — and created for our own amusement The Face Productions.  (Sidenote: “The face” was something we’d noticed in bars where people will just stare with their mouths open in a vacant expression, and we’d practiced copying them to the point that we could see someone in a bar, point, and go into “the face” ourselves as a joke.  I have no idea why we thought this was a good name for our movie productions, but it kinda fits.) 

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This time, we had a larger cast.  Control freak that I am, I still kept the reins with the script, direction, etc., and that also meant I was largely the one to talk other people into being in our little movie.  Not a problem.  Since Miranda, Rachel, and Racie and I were living in the Knapp House, of course we were the main characters, along with Gloria who came back from chiropractic school just for the movie.  The basic plot is that Rachel wants us all to stay friends after college and so develops a scheme to intermarry us with each other’s brothers so that we’ll all  be related and live happily ever after.  This meant we cast our brothers, who were shockingly more willing than I would have thought.  (Since they were 20-year-old boys at the time, I’m pretty sure what did it was the promise of free dinners.)  But I’m still delighted we talked people into some of this movie’s crazy antics.

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  • It took VERY little prompting to get Prof Stevens to be in a scene where he gives my love-crazed character advice about dating and marriage.  Like for Sasquatch, he gives a long, impassioned speech that then deteriorates into, “Or sign up for eHarmony.”
  • Jonathan, Gloria’s twin brother, becomes forlorn and jumps off a bridge at the park into shallow water.
  • In a pivotal scene, Al and Al’s friend Carter “wake up” in bed on either side of me.
  • Our friend Denver has to suffer being hit on my character while he tries to fold his laundry.
  • Our friend Jeff (who still doesn’t know he’s in our movie) passes out on Rachel’s bed and I blow kisses at his head while he’s out cold.
  • Our friend Andrew donned a sock puppet and ends up as Rachel’s love interest in the end.
  • (I would also like to point out that I am worst on myself – I’M the one who wore a pregnant pillow and sat out on our front porch during rush hour, eating and spitting out Oreos.)

I Knew What You Did Last Summer, Then I Forgot, But Now I Remember Again  (aka, our Zombie Movie)

248803_219014908128633_3609797_nDid I mention we like spoofs? This one was my favorite to make.  It was during the time when Miranda, Al, and myself were the only ones left in the Knapp House, and since our main cast was smaller we could do things at our pace. The idea for this one started when Rachel and I were watching Hostel and hated all the main characters but got really excited during a torture scene and both yelled “Chainsaw!” happily at the same time.  So, at some point I surprisingly talked Miranda into starring in a horror movie with me.  We wrote a script playing with typical horror movie clichés and ended up with this story:

Miranda and I fight over men, kill each other’s suitors, and then the “exes” come back from the dead to punish us.  We’re terrible people, and Al (our “perfect man” sidekick) isn’t much better.  We end up barricading ourselves in the house, fighting for our lives as the zombies break in because I get distracted by watching TV, and then driving to the country where we kill the zombies in a creepy old barn (which took absolutely no set preparation, considering the barn’s been on the downward swing at the Haymarsh since I can remember).  At the end of the battle, M and I kill Al just to make sure the curse is broken and he doesn’t come back from the dead.  In true horror movie fashion, that’s only the first ending, because then it’s revealed that I didn’t really kill all the zombies after all but kept Zombie Justin in our basement because he was my favorite.  Then in the second ending, it flashes to a year later where M and I happily have boyfriends…who then hit on another girl.  The last shot is of M and I glaring at this new girl and then pickup up sharp gardening utensils.  I guess the moral of the movie is….teamwork?

“Why do people go along with this craziness?!” points:230942_219010994795691_1990898_n

  • Miranda, dressed in a Halloween costume as a baseball  player, and myself, dressed in a Little Red Riding Hood costume, walked through the busy parking lot of the local theater at 9:00 ON A FRIDAY just to get a single shot.
  • My dad dressed like a farmer zombie and attacked M with a baseball bat.
  • Al sipped rubbing alcohol and blew a fireball from his mouth.
  • Buddy had to do multiple takes where I take a Blow-Pop out of his mouth and put it in mine.
  • I dressed M in the worst date outfit ever and put makeup on her so she looked like Jack Nicholson as the Joker, and on top of that she had to act drunk while carrying a container of mustard in her purse.
  • I fell and broke a rib, nearly killing myself. (Okay, that has nothing to do with anything, but I want it mentioned for the record.)

I  Was Told There’d Be Cake

0319131733This was probably our most ambitious movie.  M and I were big Sloane Crosley fans, so we decided to make a movie out of her many stories/essays in  I Was Told There’d Be Cake.  It ended up as a Christmas comedy.  Rachel was bridezilla.  We had Christmas costumes for bridesmaid dresses. 

This movie was such a beast all the way through that for a long time we swore off ever doing another.  (Note:  If you can avoid editing an entire, feature-length movie on only 30 days, do so.)  It also had the largest cast we’d ever used, and that made things complicated.  Plus we had to decorate an entire church for Christmas, film those scenes, and then tear it all down again in a single day.  Since we were going off of a book with a very specific script this time, this movie took the most direction, and mostly I turned things over to Christian on that front…mostly.  And I really have NO idea how we talked people into being in this one, except that it was Christmas-themed and maybe everyone was feeling charitable.  Again, I did the worst things to myself, for once again I had to don that horrible Red Riding Hood costume, only this time it was painted with green to make it more Christmas-y.  And there’s a part where I’m in bed between Brian (whom I’d met once before shooting) and a Papa Smurf doll.  But as for others…

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  • Rachel had to act like a crazy bridezilla, wearing Racie’s actual wedding dress, and for the bridal entrance scene she had to dance to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
  • Matt, Rachel’s brother, put up very little fuss despite the fact that I pushed what I asked of him to the limits of my imagination.  A 6’ 5” man in a onesie is a sight to behold when he’s dancing “Hammer Time,” by the way.
  • I already mentioned how poor Brian had to strip his shirt and lie next to me and Papa Smurf.
  • Dan had to dance “Thriller” while wearing reindeer antlers.
  • Kyle took over performing “Single Ladies” with more enthusiasm than I could asked for.
  • Uncle Lee was “Chip Guy” who kept eating Sun Chips in the back all during the wedding ceremony.
  • Aunt Penny played Rachel’s even-crazier mother and ALSO hosted all of us at her cottage during our filming weekend.
  • My dad wore an elaborate head device with bobbing mistletoe that hung out between the bride and groom.  All this while reciting the Princess Bride priest’s marriage speech.
  • Racie dressed up as Santa to be the groom because we had no male for that part.

Super La-La Mancha

256863_233607750002682_754448_oMan of La Mancha is my favorite musical.  We’d talked about doing a superhero movie since our very first movie.  Somehow, I got the idea to put the two together.

Rachel and I, as the un-official heads of The Face Productions, spent a day while she lived in Ann Arbor plotting for this one.  We’d learned enough by this point to know that we should shoot it documentary style so that we’d be free to accidentally look at the camera from time to time.  And we’d make sure everyone was committed to learning their lines before filming day(s).  Then we hashed out the story.  It followed the basic plot of “Man of La Mancha” but with Rachel as “Donna Coyote” and me as “Sasha Panza.”  Rachel’s love interest was Josh M. as “Aldonzo.”  Buddy would play the villain as “Mr. Eff” (okay that has no Man of La Mancha significance), and Rachel’s cat Samson would be “Rocinante.”  Think Don Quixote meets Mystery Men shot like Reno 911.

272376_233607980002659_6019507_o“Super La-La Mancha!” ended up being the most involved movie of the five.  This was largely because I took all the controls (producing solo, writing most of it, etc. etc.) and did it my way.  I also decided halfway through that this would be our last movie because I can’t handle being that angry at my friends when really they’re just doing me a favor to support my obsessive-compulsive hobbies.  But the end result turned out to be our best movie, despite combining my most-beloved musical with our…talented singers.  But, really, the whole cast and crew were troopers during this one.

  • 0319131730aRachel’s superhero makeover costume consisted of balloon boobs, a cape, fishnets, and knee-high boots spray-painted green.  Plus she had to spit and drool everywhere because her superpower was toxic saliva.
  • Randy B. finally lived out his dream of playing “Middle-Aged Fat Guy” while singing “Hail Knight of the Woeful Countenance” to Rachel.
  • Josh M. had to put up with us shrilling singing in his face for more than a few scenes.
  • Dan, as “Casanova” had to talk with a terrible French accent, wear a ridiculous mustache, and wear one of Rachel’s tank tops.
  • John H. acted like the biggest nerd alive as our “Number 1 Fan” and developed an impressive lisp.

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It’s self-serving, sure, but I love my friends for being willing to do every crazy thing I ask them – and on FILM!  And I’m glad I’m not the only one who enjoys the end results.  (Although it was a little weird watching “I Dream of Sasquatch” with my landlord when he was on lunch break while painting the Knapp House.  Sometimes I need to remember to hide our movies on my shelves…) As great as blogs and journals and pictures are, these homemade movies are my favorite things to look at and remember.  They were great creative experiences.  I’ll always laugh at Buddy singing “I’m Only Thinking of Her.”  And it’s great to have captured these little slices of time spent with friends I don’t get to see that often anymore.  And, let’s face it, these movies are great blackmail.

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The Knapp House

The Setting

When I moved back from Detroit, three friends and I rented a house on the dodgy end of Knapp Street in northeast Grand Rapids.  We had an alleyway instead of a driveway, a basement that flooded, neighbor dogs that yipped at all hours, and neighbor children that did likewise.  It was heaven.  Since we were in a house instead of apartments or dorms, it felt like a home.  It was a decent house for the rent, too – high ceilings, a big kitchen with a breakfast bar area (emphasis on the “bar,” considering it was next to what I called “the happy cupboard”), woodwork everywhere, and a very lovely porch that was the site of many Porch Nights with friends.

The Players

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Halloween…in case clarification is needed.

Myself – Manic, recovering mess.  We’ve covered.

Miranda – Bless her.  Miranda filled the father role in our house.  M was handyman, chore creator, yard mower, responsible bill payer, etc.  (We never decided who the mother figure was, and Rachel pointed out, “We’re a single parent household.”) Sharing the upstairs loft with Miranda for a while, I quickly was reminded that there are significant differences between the two of us.  We have a lot of common interests and that sort of thing, but our basic approaches to life, I think, are drastically different.  The major difference seems to lie in the left brain vs. right brain issue.  M is stronger than me in so many ways.  She’s incredibly focused.  She has self-control and an internal monitor.  She’s also possibly the most composed person I’ve ever met, and of course I hate her for it.

Rachel – I think I admire Rachel most because she is such a tumble of quirks.  Studies Klingon.  Conspiracy theorist.  Matchmaker…er…supreme.  She once spent an entire day using PhotoShop to make wedding pictures of herself with Joaquin Phoenix.  I always appreciate people who are “smart but don’t always show it” (ahem, John VanderWeide), and Rachel is very free about being a goofball and yet wielding a philosophy degree at the same time.  One night we had a discussion about predestination; the next day, while watching Hitchcock’s The Birds she came up with a theory that the birds were really angry environmentalists who were upset by the fur coats, second-hand smoke, etc.  Delightful.

Racie – I had never been friends with Racie before, and it was a struggle at first to get to know her because I hardly ever saw her during the first few weeks.  But then came the Winter Olympics 2006.  Now, honestly, I couldn’t care less about Winter Olympics aside from jumping on the momentary bandwagon of patriotism, but Racie liked them.  So, figuring this would be good bonding time, we watched figure skating, snowboarding (I actually do like that one), ice dancing, bobsledding, etc.  I found that it was pretty easy to get to know Racie even when talking about something as unimportant as the scoring system for ice dancing – which, if you can avoid it, do.  As it turned out, my personality is probably closest to Racie’s, so that was an interesting discovery, even if I was closer to M and Rachel initially. I also remember being incredibly grateful that she was willing to go get me Gatorade when I had the flu, so maybe Racie filled the mother role in our house.

amAmber – When Rachel moved out and we needed a fourth roommate, something pretty cool happened.  In one of those beautiful God moments, we realized that Amber, a friend of Racie’s, would fit perfectly because we all liked her and coincidentally she needed desperately to find a new place to live.  She’d even asked her mom’s church ladies to pray that she find a new living arrangement, and the next day we invited her to live with us without knowing this.   Amber was a great filler of the fourth roommate spot.  Since she was in grad school, it was fun to have someone around who had homework again.  She was sensible, calm, and also crazy and fun.  She had the worst music I’d ever heard from an iPod.  She could quote Friends like no one I’ve ever met.  She said “uber” before almost every adjective.  Amber and I also had this running joke about my unhealthy enjoyment of fire, but that was okay because she liked Paul Walker movies.

alAl – When Amber moved out and Racie got married and therefore moved out, Miranda and I tried to live on our own for a while.  But after one winter of paying the heating bill, we wanted another roommate.  Thus entered Al, who is M’s younger brother.  Since Al worked about two miles from our house and often stayed at our place after episodes of Lost, it just made sense for him to move in.  Al was… Think basically a stereotypical 22-year-old boy but one who likes to read a lot too.  Belching.  Toenail clipping.  Leaving the seat up.  BUT, he also cooked, cleaned up after himself, and fixed things.  He was entertaining, funny and witty, and as my friends often pointed out was not bad to look at (though this is creepy when you think of someone as “Other Brother”).  Al introduced us to the joys of Rob & Big and numerous other boyish things that we tomboys greatly appreciated.  After he moved out to live with friends, I pouted for about a week because I no longer had anyone to watch bloody movies with.

Memorable Points –

  • Once, we had to push Rachel’s car out of the muddy driveway only to discover as she screeched down the street that she’d had her parking brake on the entire time.
  • One night, hopped up on watermelon, Miranda and I were playing in the backyard in the dark when I looked over and saw a black, small animal scampering across the alley to our house.
    When it paused in the yard, I called, “Here, kitty, kitty.”
    It turned its head, revealing a white stripe down its back.
    I yelled, “Oh, that’s not a kitty!” and we ran quickly into the house at is started coming our way.
  • We created our own version of the game “Apples to Apples” that turned out to be “Inside-Joke/Dirty Apples to Apples.”
  • Our house became the gathering site of our college pals.  We had several “parties” where we sat around drinking and playing board games – oh, the wild parties of English majors.  (I could have done without pickle juice being spit on our floor, but oh well.) At one party, there was a bit of confusion as Buddy was leaving and I asked if he wanted a Blow Pop.  The question alone wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t made a hand motion in front of my mouth to “clarify” what I meant. Any reference to Blow Pops became a running joke.
  • When Rachel needed help moving, we loaded up a few vehicles for the drive to Ann Arbor.  While trying to squeeze Rachel’s mattress into the back of Amber’s Blazer, we had to fold it, and the best instructions for how to do this were “Taco it!”  It made sense, but the box springs simply would not fit in the Blazer.  This meant we had to tie it down to the top of the vehicle, and Rachel somehow managed to completely tangle herself in the rope.  As the rest of us fell over laughing, Rachel danced around in the rope, only making it worse.
    Amber, trying to get Rachel out of the tangled rope, asked, “How do you exist without killing yourself?”
  • Dan, Racie’s fiancé, would often stay with us for a week at a time.  Really, I only remember him during this time as that guy who stayed on our couch.  And he had good music taste (which really always means someone has your music taste, doesn’t it?)  But whenever he stayed with us, for some reason M and I would pretty much stay upstairs in our room the entire time.  Maybe we were just trying to give Dan and Racie time to themselves, but we certainly could have made more of an effort.  Especially since, it turns out, Dan is one of my favorite spouses to enter the group.  Why? Because pictures like this happen:

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    Again, to clarify, at Halloween.
  • Al more than once came into my room after shaving his head and would spin around with his head down, asking, “Is it even?”
  • For a Super Bowl Party, Al strategically arranged 3 TVs in the living/dining room so we could watch the game from every angle.

Lessons Learned –  To paraphrase Arrested Development, a much beloved TV show in our house, “Sunny was getting life lessons all over the place.”

  • Having had my own apartment in Detroit, I had to learn once again to deal with other people on a regular basis, even when I didn’t feel like it.  It’s no secret that I am very into “me time” and it was good for me to have to spend time with other people, step outside myself, and stop being so self-involved.  I tend to want everything to be my way, and this just doesn’t fly when three other people have plans too.
    Late one night, while a group of guests cavorted downstairs, I lay on my bed moaning as Miranda read on her side of the room, and I finally realized my stupidity and muttered, “I’m crabby.”
    Miranda laughed, “You think?”
  • This is what I appreciate most about living with others:  You learn how to get along even when you don’t want to, because these people know where you sleep.  It’s a favorite saying of mine that you should never let an argument last longer than the milk in your fridge (even when that milk has fermented beyond all recognition as belonging to the dairy family…hypothetically). Patience with others is not a virtue I keep in my back pocket, but I had to learn how to breathe rather than…ferment.  I think, by living together, we all learned to settle our differences in healthy ways.
    Also, this experience helped me learn how to deal with people I didn’t live with too.  Since my roommates and I had the same friend circle, some individuals I didn’t particularly care for were still around from time to time.  Pretending such individuals don’t exist doesn’t exactly work.  But the truth is, you aren’t going to like everyone, no matter how hard you try.  Some personalities are just different and will not jive.  Try as you might, you are simply not going to see eye to eye with some people.  The dance here is finding how to coexist without letting the lack of affection turn into dislike that turns into something darker.
    Then this hit me:  Saying you don’t like someone is pointless, really.  Where has not liking someone ever gotten you except somewhere bad?  So, to stop this before it gets bad, how do you resolve the tension of not particularly liking someone? I am convinced that even Christians (or maybe especially Christians, in my experience) are not always going to like each other.  What to do? Shake hands and part company? Or just be bland acquaintances with surface, casual relationships? Maybe.  (I can’t pretend to be the perfect adviser on the topic of interpersonal relationships.) BUT, we can’t let relationships get to the point of distaste, because, like I said, where does that get us? That chest-tightening dislike thing doesn’t work with that whole Christian love thing.  And it leads to ulcers.  “Fester, fester, fester.  Rot, rot, rot” may be my favorite Meg Ryan movie quote of all time.  No good comes of bottling anger.  But we shouldn’t blow it out, either.  It becomes easy to release tension by venting with others about the person you don’t like.  THIS IS NOT LOVE!  Even if the person you don’t like never hears about it, constantly bitching amongst ourselves is not going to help resolve tension.  It makes it worse.  It will still eat at you.  This resolves nothing.
    So where do you go? I guess the only thing you can do when there is no connection between people is to just let it go.  Ignore the dislike.  Forgive it.  Start over, or at least with a clean slate in your own mind.  Try.  At least be neutral in your opinion of this person.  Then, you might be surprised to find that there is something there after all, underneath the ignored and forgotten dislike.  You might never be best buds, but at least there will be some level of love there if you try.
  • Living with people, you get better at seeing what others need.  Familiarity may breed contempt, but it also brings understanding.  You become more sympathetic.  When one of my roommates might be hurting or struggling, I knew them well enough to know the kind of advice or encouragement they needed.
    It took me a bit of time to figure out how to help in some situations.  I tend to have a laugh-it-off approach to pretty much everything – the Somerville motto is “If we’re going to laugh about it later, we might as well laugh about it now.”  But this doesn’t work when people of other temperaments are crying or angry or hurting.  So, of course, to really help someone you have to know them.  Doing what would help you does not always help others.  So you have to find what works for them.  Living right with someone, you’d better know them well enough to help, or else what are you doing?

Quotes –

  • “I would date the cookie monster; we have similar interests.” – Rachel
  • “I want a sailboat when I grow up.  Not that I know how to sail, but that’s what the servants are for.” – Rachel
  • “23 and single is not the time to have stuffed animals on the bed.” – Racie
  • “True or False. Rolz Gold Pretzels give other pretzels penis envy.” – Racie
  • “Taste like something!” – Miranda, yelling at her taco
  • “Hide it under a bushel. No. Let it shine. That is my advice to you.” – Miranda
  • “If you sing arguments from now on, I will let you win them.” – Miranda
  • “No, you’re more pathetic because you’re self-aware!” – Miranda to Me
  • “You know, you pretend to be the normal one in the house, and then things like this happen.” – Me to Miranda
  • “I don’t want to marry a mongoose!” – Me
  • “Men are gross.  This movie is making me want one less and less.” – Me, of Rocky

Personal Quirks I Stole –

  • Thinking before speaking – Miranda
  • Not thinking before speaking – Rachel
  • Tapping my nose while thinking – Racie
  • Saying “-ity-doo” after every verb – Al
  • Because of Miranda I don’t immediately disregard folk music
  • Because of Rachel I read Steven King
  • Because of Racie I know how figure skating is scored
  • Because of Amber I appreciate that Paul Walker cannot act his way out of a paper bag
  • Because of Al, I developed an appreciation for Rob Dyrdek
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A few of our “Apples to Apples” cards. All true stories.

I suppose I should have some sort of closing point to all this, but really I just have to say that this whole time period at The Knapp House was a blessing.  It gave me time to chill out and enjoy where I was.  Who can ask for more than a roof over one’s head, friends to laugh with and learn from, and enough ice cream in the freezer to feed a small army?

People Who Get You

Here’s the thing I find most annoying about undergoing personal change:  Getting other people to realize it.  Why do people who knew you during one period in your life always expect you to be the same as they remember? Sure, not everyone has gone through the tumbling wash cycle of emotional/mental/psycho analysis that I did, but why do we hold people from our past in mental time capsules?  Everyone changes.  The hard part is that, even after you know you’ve changed for the better, you have to convince other people, and that is oddly more work.

Upon my return to Western Michigan from my experiment on the Detroit side, I’d mentally made a break from “growing up Sunny” and changed things about myself that I didn’t like, let other things grow out, and stopped letting myself wallow in behavioral ruts.  I felt better, healthier, freer, and more open and loving in general.

Then…  I happened to return to Grand Rapids around the time of an ACS Homecoming, so I immediately ran into people who had high-school-shaped perceptions of me.  I shattered them joyously.

“You did what?!” someone asked when I told them about my model scouting while in Detroit.

“You were always a shy, quiet girl,” another told me in bafflement.

“I can’t see you doing that.” This was said in a tone suggesting that, since she couldn’t see me doing it, that meant I hadn’t.

It may show just how much I grew to say that I smiled with nothing but love for these people. 

But as the months rolled on after my return, the differences between who I’d been as teenager and who I was as a nearly 30-year-old came up time and again.  People expected me to be snotty and cutting, which was really obnoxious because I found myself “obliging” in this regard and therefore reverting a bit. I suppose parents and family will always see you as you were as a child, but if they could accept that I drink on a regular basis, why couldn’t they conceive of the idea that I might now be happy and not sulking all the time? (That’s just my face!)  Even the person I was from college had changed, so people who didn’t even know me as a teenager often still thought of me as they perceived me in college.  My college friend Justin pointed out to me once that he had always assumed I was aloof and thought myself better than everyone else because he’d often seen me smirking during classes.   I explained that I smirk whenever I’m amused by someone or something.  Justin – God bless him – actually corrected his view and has been “in on the secret” behind my rather constant smirking ever since.

I can’t be the only one with this problem.  But, it has always bothered me when people don’t know me but think they do – this is actually my biggest pet peeve.  My roommate, Miranda, and I had a group of friends referred to as “Group Yay” (more later) who tended to lump Miranda and I together as one entity.  While I love M as one of my closest friends, we are NOT the same person and have significant differences.  I’m sure Group Yay thought I was being negative about M one night when I repeatedly pointed out that I was not her – I am not as conservative, I am not quiet, I swear, I like rap music, I have been drunk on more than a handful of occasions.  I also pointed out that M is a better person, so I tried to point out how she is her own person, too – she thinks before she speaks, she’s gentler, she knows more about folk music than I ever will.  Also, the issue went beyond simply being compared to M, because they had a very certain idea about who I was under the label of a “good, Christian girl” too.  I’m not a rebel or a badass or anything, but considering my upbringing and educational experiences, this label and the assumptions that go with it drive me nuts – especially when coming from these boys who should have known me better.

But what are you going to do?

I guess part of this problem is that we constantly realize new things about ourselves.  I am this.  I am this.  Wow, I’m way more that than I thought.  Do people see us better than we see ourselves, as outsiders looking in?  Are we all a little blind, or delusional?  I pride/bludgeon myself on being ridiculously self-aware, but why don’t other people see things about me that I think are essential and obvious?

On the flip side, there are those people that see you at every stage of your life.  No matter the lengths of time that go between your meetings, they know who you are and what you need and love you enough to be accurate, if that makes sense.

Enter the Andrus kids.

When I was 7ish, my mom wanted to earn extra cash by babysitting.  One wet Michigan day, a lady with her baby showed up at our trailer door and came in to interview my mom.  She was there only a short time before there was another knock on the door.  I remember our dog, Kat, barked with a mouthful of dog food and scampered over to greet a second woman who’d come to meet my mom about babysitting.  My mom was confused, but soon enough the first lady realized she was at the wrong address.  Thank goodness, because this second woman was the mother of an adorable little girl with a mullet named Kaly and a robust toddler named Luke.

My fondest childhood memories are of Kaly, Luke, my brother Christian, and me playing outside, drawing inside, and eating macaroni and cheese and baloney lunches.  When we played, “Mrs. Jackson” was for some reason always the name of the bad lady after us.  We played hockey on the frozen swamp behind our house in the winter.  We made the most awesome fort of all time – it had a working sauna, no lie.  They helped me create The Kota Series as we played Kota for hours and hours and hours – I was always dying, Kaly always had telepathic headaches, Luke always crushed things, and Christian was the wild card.  We became like siblings, really.  Kaly’s bloody nose stain on our house’s stairs was still there when we moved.

Fast forward a few decades.

At Kaly Andrus’s wedding, she chose me as her maid of honor.  I hadn’t really seen her in about four years, but when you grow up as the closest thing to someone’s big sister, I guess this is a job that shouldn’t come as a surprise.  The strange thing was, though we’d both changed a good deal since we’d been kids playing Kota, I don’t recall even having a catch-up discussion.  It did immediately strike me as odd that Kaly thought she would still know me as well as she did way back when, and she also didn’t seem to think there was any reason I wouldn’t know her anymore.  I was worried about this at first.  Kaly said things like, “Well, I trust Sunny.  She knows what I like.” When you haven’t known someone since they were of legal age, can it really be said that you know or even can guess their taste in gifts, flowers, or colors of penis straws?

But here’s the thing: We did still know each other.  We could exchange wordless glances and get it.  Kaly knew enough not to attempt to match-make me at her wedding.  I knew when to help as a maid of honor and when she had it under control.  And I’ve never been prouder than the morning of her wedding as she chugged from a bottle of Pepto in one hand and then a bottle of Jack in the other.

And this lack-of-need-to-catch-up goes for Luke, too.  It helps that the kid is so laid back and just plain lovable in general.  When I was leaving Kaly’s wedding, I remember a very drunk Luke picking me up in a huge hug and saying, “I love you.  And that’s not just because I’m drunk.  I really do love you.”  He may not remember that, but it meant a lot to me.  Later, when Christian was in Luke’s wedding, I saw this same connection still existed between them too.  The funny thing here is that they’ve grown to have such different lives and interests – Luke stayed country while Christian had to borrow cowboy boots, for example.  But there’s still just that easy thing that exists between people who grew up together.

And that’s what the four of us have.  We’re almost-siblings.  We can change and grow up and go for lengths of time without seeing each other, but we’re still close enough to know each other at the drop of a hat.  We’ll be in each other’s weddings without hesitation.  We can roll with the changes life brings and accept each other

The FourSo.  There are people in your life – some whom you even love dearly – who will hold you in a time capsule. There are some who will refuse to see changes/growth.  This can be incredibly frustrating as you try to move forward, but it’s good to keep those other people around you, the ones who somehow know you and love you and recognize you.

Maybe that’s the test of any real relationship – no matter how much time and how much change has come along the way, who still knows you without having to ask?

From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Sunny M. Somerville

The problem with realizing that you spent your college degree on a hobby is that you have to figure out what to do with the rest of your life.  Vocational success not important?  Okay, then, what to do?  Life doesn’t exactly stop at 22.

After graduating from college, I took a year off.  Off – I didn’t work, I didn’t do much of anything.  I did watch a lot of movies.  I also worked on my next novels, being productive in that least productive kind of way.  But mostly I did nothing.  This downtime was mostly because I suddenly realized that, although I was no longer a mess as a person, I still had no direction.  I had no schedule anymore, no homework aside from what was self-appointed.  So, what to do?  Where to go?  What did I want – oh, yes, that old question still floats around, doesn’t it?  I was happy, but the longer I sat and looked around me, the more I realized that I was basically where I’d always been.

I get restless easily.  I hate ruts and the thought of settling.  As a kid, I’d always told myself that I would explore life and soak up as much as I could before getting married, having kids, and settling down in a “normal” life.  I think I always planned to have those things eventually – family, community, etc.  – but I have this thing deep inside me that always needs to be different somehow (think Claudia of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler).  I always knew I would want to go to college, live on my own, and experience Otherness first before I could be even mildly content with settling down.  I wanted some life on my own terms for a while.  Then, I would always have those memories and experiences that were different from those around me.  I could live perfectly normally after that, and be content. 

The problem was, Cornerstone University and Grand Rapids weren’t that different from everything else I’d ever known.  I hadn’t really experienced the Otherness that I felt I needed.  Here I was, already settling in one year after college, and I didn’t feel like I’d ever moved.

So, after a year of doing nothing, I made a break for it.  July 2005, I plopped myself down three hours away from every home I’d ever known and moved to the Detroit area.  Honestly, that is why I moved – it was an experiment of getting away from my comfort zone/bubble.  I needed change.  I needed drastic.  I needed surroundings that were fresh and new and completely disconnected from everything back home.  I needed something that was different which was just mine, my own experience.  I’d always said I absolutely did not want to live in Detroit, so naturally this seemed like the most drastic move I could make.  I wanted a place different in setting, feel, tone, and perspective so that I could explore and also maybe figure out what I wanted for the rest of my life.

On a Tuesday I had no life plans; by Friday I was living in the suburbs of the D.

I liked it immediately.  There was an artistic, creative energy about the place – Birmingham, Troy, Royal Oak mostly – that I loved.  I’ve never been heavily addicted to urban-ness, but the variety of places to go was great.  I liked how one city blended into another like a puzzle, and yet each city was distinct.  Birmingham is money, Troy feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up and so is focused around the mall, and Royal Oak is a little niche strip for hipsters and artsy types.  Detroit itself, let’s face it, was kinda clinging to life, but it’s still so big that even with half the city functioning it would be a force to be reckoned with.  There were concerts and art exhibits and restaurant openings and book readings and baseball games, etc. etc. etc.  And young people really seemed to be far more numerous over there, or maybe I just noticed them more because of the job I took as a model scout – youth were our marks, so of course I picked them out of every crowd.  The sheer volume of younger people somehow seemed to control what happened in a city, if that makes sense.  Events and places catered to young people to keep us entertained, to draw us in.  Our VIP status as model scouts (ha, what a joke…but anyway) didn’t hurt either.  I saw all the good sides of the clubs, bars, etc.  We never had to wait in line.  I never, in the 6 months I lived over there, paid for my own drink (this was for a variety of reasons, but it did make learning to drink easier).  And because my coworkers were a tremendous bunch of fun natives, they showed me the places to go, the people to meet, and the food to eat.  

Here’s another big difference I noticed about the east side of Michigan – people go out to mingle with people other than the people in their party.  There was a more inclusive, communal approach to being social.  It didn’t hurt that, as model scouts, we had to talk to like 50 people a night.  But, even when we weren’t scouting, I noticed this different approach to socializing.  I don’t know if I’d say people in Grand Rapids are less friendly, per se, but the most you get out of most people here is a reciprocal smile of acknowledgement.

Anyway, because the Detroit area is considerably less church-infested than Grand Rapids, I encountered people who had very, very different worldviews from the average person in my Cornerstone/Grand Rapids bubble. It was wonderfully refreshing.  I made friends with openly flamboyant homosexuals, one of whom was the best Christian I met over there.  My closest friend was a self-proclaimed “pot-smoking, experimental nymphomaniac.” I made friends with Buddhists, Catholics, and Kid Rock fans.  Overall, I liked the variety of people I met, and they forced me to question things I’d always believed but never been forced to questions.  I’ve always hated white noise and people who can’t think outside their box, so this gave me an opportunity to prove to myself that I was stronger than that.  While interacting with these people, I found I was able to hold to what I believed but maybe growing it a bit.  I found that all this interaction solidified in my mind that not everything that is Other is bad, and not everything that doesn’t agree with what I believe is to be hated or feared.  At the end of the day, you can fundamentally disagree with someone but still love each other.  Maybe that is what Detroit did for me more than anything – it widened my experience of humanity just a little bit.

Memories –

  • At the model scouting office, Diego was responsible for one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard: “Thank God you guys are back.  The most exciting thing that happened all day was when I walked by the mirror.”
  • When trying to get into my car from the curb, Sophie was responsible for one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen:  She fell and slid down the side of my car, making a smearing sound against the glass like you hear in a cartoon.
  • Sophie, as we walked past the nicest car I’ve ever seen: “Oh, f*** men.  Can that have my children?”
  • We ran into Chauncey Billups at a Mongolian Barbecue.
  • We accidentally scouted Jack Johnson’s barefoot drummer in a mall.
  • We accidentally scouted Mario and his friends/bouncers in a mall, and he was so amused that he invited us to his birthday party.
  • I literally ran into John Heffron, the second season winner of Last Comic Standing, in Somerset Mall.
  •  “Cheap Gay Layaway” at Old Navy.  Dominic found a man-purse he loved but could not afford, hid it behind a rack of clothes, and then 3 months later we found it in the same location.  When telling the checkout girl, she said, “That does not speak well of us, does it?”
  • Craig telling the story of when he’d drawn the perfect picture of Sonic the Hedgehog only to have the nuns at his school take it and throw it away.  This had been when he was in second grade; he was still bitter.  I loved him instantly.
  • Troy acting like “Sexy Little Drummer Boy” while walking by the door as we were trying to have a serious meeting.
  • Carmen calming saying like a GPS, “Head-on collision,” as Sophie for no reason drove straight at a van like a game of chicken in a wide, wide parking lot.
  • Various outings with Felix in his car because I liked the sound of his car’s blinker.
  • Once I quit scouting, I worked at People’s Pottery, a high-end craft store (if that makes sense) in Birmingham.  Sarah and I spent many hours playing “Hide the Duck” in the store when it got slow.  This is played by…hiding the duck, a figurine we didn’t like, somewhere in the store and then making the other person find it in a hot-cold method.
  • That girl who came in with her rich husband (it should be a given that there was an age gap of like 20 years) and pointed at things she liked until she’d racked up a bill of $850.  I contributed to $500 of this by convincing her that all the ugly stuff in the store that we were sick of looking at was totally awesome.
  • That semi-hot, constantly-drunk guy who came in repeatedly and one day wondered what the wine bottle stoppers were.  When I told him what they were, he looked at me in almost hurt disbelieve and said, “Why wouldn’t you just drink the whole bottle?”
  • The older Romanian lady telling me that I could get a job at Hooters.
  • The “homeless” guy I encountered in the store’s back alley who held out a bill and asked if I had change for $100.

 Gosh, it was fun.  I know most people (certainly those in my circle of friends) look back on college as the most exciting time of their lives, but for me it was this 6-month experimental period in the suburbs of Detroit.

But, as I mentioned in my “Spiritual Geography” blog post, I didn’t like Detroit enough.  I was so busy most of the time that I didn’t have a lot of time to sit around and think, and this was probably a good break from my usual mode of over-analysis.  But, once I slowed down and started reflecting on my life again, I knew that this experiment was over.  I’d gotten my time away, and now  I wanted to go back to be nearer to friends (whom I surprisingly really did miss), nearer to family, and nearer to whatever idea of “home” I had.  It was just time to get back to normal.  I’d had my “different” like Claudia from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

So, I moved back to Grand Rapids to start the next chapter.  I will always look back fondly on my time in the Detroit area because it gave me memories and experiences that are just mine. This will give me that sense of different that I need, and now I can be perfectly content living a normal life in white bread, conservative Western Michigan, if that is what happens.  (Also, I have the added fun now of knowing that nobody knows what I’m talking about whenever I say that I can never look at people the same again – I often slip into model-scouting mode when bored in a crowd, taking people-watching to a whole new level.  And, I like confusing guys when they talk about strip clubs and I say, “Yeah. I miss my old job.”)

French, The Protestant Nunnery, & Why You Should Put Batteries in a Camera

Senior Year – 2003-2004.

Ah, the homestretch.

By now I’d had enough of living on Cornerstone’s campus, and this final roommate hunting experience turned out to be the more wonderful turn of events of my entire social life.  Gloria, roommate from my Junior year, had two friends from the Honors Program who wanted to get an apartment a few miles from campus.  I agreed to join in.  Reluctantly.  Confession:  When I heard these two girls were from this Honors group, I admit I sucked in my breath a little bit.  To my knowledge I didn’t know either of them, but I knew of this group.  As freshmen, the Honors kids had been “those Honors kids” who we, as lofty sophomores, had been annoyed with because they were too loud, way too excited ,etc.  But, Gloria had turned out to be likable  and I’d had enough classes with a few from this group to know they were at least smart and interesting.  Plus, Prof Burghart at one point randomly stopped me in that stairwell that always smelled like sweaty metal to discuss my writing, and he’d suggested that I get to know some of the Honors kids because he thought I might like them.  Fortunately, that simple advice stuck.  I sucked it up, crossed my fingers, and agreed to join Gloria and her friends, Rachel and Miranda, to live in the apartment.

For some reason, I was the first person to move into the apartment, which meant I went to the apartment complex’s office to sign the lease. The office lady knew of me and, justifiably believing I was aware of who I was living with, said, “Oh, you’re one of Brooke’s friends moving into the apartment above her!  That should be fun.”  I fake smiled with a chipper “Yes!” although I had no clue who Brooke was any more than I knew who Rachel or Miranda were.  Anyway, I got the keys, and then my dad and brother suffered the joys of hauling my couch up three flights of stairs (this couch, years later, would be cathartically torn apart with hammers and steak knives by my enthusiastic father).

Rachel was the first roommate to move in with me.  I greeted her, her face registered as someone I’d had classes with a few times (and, yes, she was one of those Honors kids), and we kinda ignored each other as we went about settling in. Which was reasonable.  What was not reasonable was that for THE REST OF THE DAY we did not talk to each other but instead read books in different rooms until it was too dark and then we went to bed.  To this day, neither of us knows why we didn’t talk.

Then came Miranda.  Ah-ha, she looked vaguely familiar too! …Or at least the back of her head did from when she’d sat in the front of Religious Authors class the previous year. Again, however, little effort was put into getting to know each other for a while. (Which was incredibly stupid, considering we discovered A YEAR LATER that we’d both grown up in the same small town of Cedar Springs and had tons in common.)

Thus began two of my best friendships ever.

Despite the pathetic start, Gloria, Rachel, Miranda, and myself ended up getting along splendidly, which Gloria must have foreseen when she’d suggested the idea.  Seriously, it is a major accomplishment to say that four girls living in an apartment and sharing one bathroom never fought.

 197005_503730040321_4665_nFun times:

  • Rachel liked to think she was an excellent matchmaker, which resulted in a white-board drawing of a game of M.A.S.H. with stick figures labeled with our initials and terrifying numbers of stick children.
  • Gloria and I for no clear reason once posed for pictures all night.  One shows me afraid of a stuffed dragon which Gloria is about to save me from with nunchucks.
  • In a very tongue-in-cheek move, we nicknamed our apartment the Protestant Nunnery.

While I still wasn’t completely a part of their group, my three kind roommates grafted me into their circle of friends as much as both sides were willing, and I then came to know a few people I’d had multiple classes with over the years.  All around, my Senior Year I bothered to get to know people, probably because I realized I was about to leave college with only a handful of friends to remain in contact with for the rest of my life.  Fortunately I still had Becca, Adam, Aaron, and Pete from the year previous, so there were always people “my age” to hang out with between  classes, after classes, and on many a “Fabulous Fluger Friday.”  We swam in Pete’s parents’ pool.  Becca’s family took us to dinner at Mongolian BBQ for her birthday.  We for some reason watched Britney Spears music videos at Aaron’s.  We played tons of euchre.  Becca and I went to “Rent” which had Constantine, that guy who would later be on American Idol – he looked right at us too  (insert fake swoon)!  It was pretty good times.

Academically, I was also speaking up a bit more in class since I’d determined that I needed interaction – and, ahem, affirmation.   But for some stupid reason I took 19 credits that first semester, which was a bit much considering I was trying to finish my first novel at the same time.  (Hindsight: I wish I’d focused more on the book than ending college with a bang.)

199511_503730025351_3647_nFrench class in particular was enjoyable both semesters, and in a weird string of connections I ended up becoming friends with Christine, who turned out to be the wife of “Oh, that guy” who I’d had multiple classes with each semester. Christine and I struggled through the language together with mediocre little-to-no success, but it was great to stay after class and talk with the Prof for long periods of time about books, music, feminism, her time in France, etc.  She even gave us books to divvy up between us at the end of the year.  Christine and I never did learn to master the most difficult sentence we could come up with “I need a drink in the woods,” but it was fun.  And I’m pretty sure we both passed with As, so our sucking up must have worked.

Media Literacy was of my final Communications classes for my minor.  I was a little disappointed to discover that they’d pulled a switcheroo at the last minute and changed the prof to some new guy, but by the end of the first class period Prof Anderson had won me over – anyone who gets that excited about Disney is my kind of person.  And while I’m sure he was only impressed with my writing because I was being read in comparison to my Communication major classmates (don’t get me started), I did appreciate his comments on my papers of “This is OUTSTANDING work – I want to help you get this published!” and “Call me, email me, we MUST do coffee!” 

198935_503730020361_3270_nAmerican  Lit: Colonial with Prof Stevens once again resulted in numerous quotable quotes from the man.  This class also solidified my hatred of Moby Dick.  I mostly remember my new-found friends playing online quizzes and giggling all class period. And I’m still not sure how to take it that, when in one of my papers I mentioned being related to Emily Dickinson, Stevens wrote, “Why does this not surprise me?”

I’m not sure there is any way to explain Senior Seminar for English.  I will say that I enjoyed my final paper on Flannery O’Connor, even if I basically gave my defense presentation from the position that I didn’t really like her writing.  (I’m glad Prof Landrum agreed with me, even if Prof Stevens was aghast, which I think is unfair considering the whole time during my defense his kid ate French fries on his lap and stuck his tongue out at me.)  Anyway, my main memories are of sitting around that table and listening to some of the dumbest conversations I’ve fortunately mostly forgotten.  I kept no notes from that class.  The one REALLY good thing I got out of it was that it finally forever solidified my friendship with “Oh, that guy,” the one I’d had Weight Training, Religious Authors, and many other classes with.  Because he was in the group with my new circle of friends, I was fine by this point using his name “Buddy” in my head instead of “Oh, that guy.”  But still we never spoke.  We developed an odd understanding, though, and I don’t know what I would have done without him sitting across the table from me to receive my eye rolls and exchange looks of “What the hell is going on?  How have we been praying for cats for 20 minutes?” etc.  Telepathy would have been very handy, but you make do.

Then there was Editing and Proofreading, where I was the only person NOT on the school paper and I’m sure the Prof resented me for it.  I may have rubbed it in an little bit, actually.  I even wrote a paper on why I hadn’t done the job-shadowing assignment.  After talking with my aunt Sharon’s friend Julie, who was an editor, I realized that living a life with a red pen was not for me.  I got an A on that paper too, which is still funny to me.

Adolescent Lit was with another of Aunt Sharon’s friends from college – Prof Bell.  Talk about going into a class with pressure. Since Becca, myself, and another guy named Denver (who was a part of my new friend circle) all had to study Moby Dick that same semester, we bonded in this equally-exasperating class.  I remember Becca and I did some presentation where we showed a clip from “The Simpsons,” but I don’t remember why.  I also remember we made Prof Bell cry because we defended that Harry Potter was not satanic.

Over the Christmas break we had J(anuary) Term, and Becca and I took Science Fiction class with Prof Landrum.  This meant I was in heaven for about 2 weeks.  Now that my 19-credit semester was behind me and I had a breezy 12-credit semester ahead of me, I set aside large chunks of time to finish The Kota, my first novel that I’d been fiddling with to that point. Being in Sci-Fi class helped sharpen my focus.  We read Dune, Landrum sang the “Star Trek” theme, and we reminisced about the date and time that “Alf” had aired – I’m still impressed with that classmate who remembered where it fit in the NBC lineup in the 1990s.  The fact that there were about 6 of us in the class was great, and for the first time I actually bothered to pipe up in discussions (the fact that sci-fi was my favorite genre didn’t hurt.)

Finally, there was Postmodernism.  By this point I was happy calling “those honor kids” my friends, and most of them were in this class.  Plus Blond Abraham Lincoln, whom none of us liked, and we had a rotating schedule of who had to sit next to him.  The class was somehow fun, which I attribute to Prof Bonzo entirely.  He at least had the good sense to let us read an impossibly complicated book in groups and then come up with questions for the next class period.  My favorite was probably Buddy’s, “How does Derrida get any work done with Caputo’s lips fastened to his ass?”

Anyway, as my time as a college student came to an end, I finally published The Kota, which came as a surprise to my profs because I had NEVER bothered to even mention it.  Becca had been suckered into writing on the school paper, and she wrote a very kind article about how I was publishing my first novel.  Prof Stevens’ said, “Miss Somerville has always been an enigma, and I’m intrigued that she quietly wrote this full-length novel.” I’m pretty sure that this single-handedly earned me the 2004 English Award for Excellence.  (Side note:  At the chapel before graduation, Landrum, as the head of Humanities at the time, presented me with this award and presented the Communications Award for Excellence to Lydia, another classmate I’m gladly come to know by name.  As we both stood on stage and received our $50 gift cards to Barnes & Noble, Lydia side-smile-whispered to me, “Did you know about this?” so that I side-smile-whispered, “Nope.”  Apparently Landrum hadn’t bothered to tell us beforehand, but all the other division recipients had known.)

Then came graduation.  I remember thinking now different this was from my high school graduation.  I couldn’t wait to get away from ACS; I was sad to leave Cornerstone.  I was happy with what I’d accomplished, and I was thrilled that God had brought me so far from the mess I’d been.  Most of the ceremony is kind of a blur in my memory, but I did end up sitting next to Amber Smith, as we’d predicted would happen back as freshmen.  And it’s only thanks to Gloria that I have any pictures from my graduation at all, because my parents forgot to charge the batteries in the camera.

I remember going back to my apartment after the open house that my family threw for me.  I was the only one home, which was probably good.  I remember just feeling…blank.  I had no homework due tomorrow.  I didn’t have to be anywhere until my internship started in a week.  I’ve never been so hit with the feeling of being done.  The unknown stretched before me for the first time in my life.  It was kind of a relief, definitely terrifying.

Then my internship started in the media department at Cornerstone.  This basically meant weeks of making phone calls and writing random articles for the website that didn’t seem to matter to me.  There were some really wonderful “older people” who were willing to take the time to guide me in decisions for my future.  By the end of the internship, though, I basically once again realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with a red pen.  I didn’t want to work in an office, even if it had something vaguely to do with writing, editing, publishing, etc.  I had become, somewhere along the way, too creative to find that fulfilling.  I’d gotten a degree for my hobby.

So, after my internship was over and I officially had my diploma, I took a year off to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  It helped that all my roommates were still in college for another year, so I didn’t have a complete cutoff from all the wonderful things of college that I’d discovered.  This included my friends, and I now had the free time to get to know them better.  We got much closer, and I remember sitting in a room with Rachel, Miranda, Gloria, Brooke, Buddy, Christine, Denver, Chris, Andrew, Randy (Burghart), and a few other people and thinking for the first time in my life, “I like everyone in this room.”  That still touches me as an incredibly good moment, and it was then that I realized God had finally brought me to a place and to a people that fit.

Red Walls, Landrum, and Why I Love Eminem

Junior Year – 2002-2003.

My roommate situation Junior Year at Cornerstone proved to be a phenomenal turning point.  Mita (from the year before, you remember, who made excellent dumplings) and I needed a place to live now that Elise had decided to brave the life of a commuter.  So in one of those friend-of-a-friend moves, we signed up to live with Bobbi and her friend Gloria.  Bobbi had lived across the hall from me Freshmen Year.  I was told Gloria was on the track team.  That was all I knew.  Well, that and Bobbi’s assurance that “Gloria is cool.”

My first day back on campus, I took a small load up to our apartment in Babcock and dodged the others moving in.  Walking into our apartment, I found this 5-foot-plus-few-inches girl with long hair, Gloria, sitting at her computer.  She turned and asked if I needed help.  My immediate response to this question is always “no,” but I figured if she was willing it might be a good way to get to know each other.  So, Gloria walked with me back to my car to get the next load.  Then something happened that bonded us instantly.  A guy I knew from the years before had parked near me and started unloading, and he commenced chatting away at me so that I went into my obvious (at least I think obvious) humoring voice that also is meant to imply I’m not interested.  With one sympathetic glance from Gloria, I knew we were going to be friends.

Gloria, Bobbi, Mita, and I got along extremely well.  We were all a little bit country, a little bit rock-n’-roll, funny, and not above being a little nuts from time to time to let off steam.  Bobbi came up with the idea of painting plastic bright red and hanging it all around the living/dining room, and I’m told people in the parking lot looked through our windows and thought we were Goth and angry all the time.  Mita and I would often pretend to be napping rather than answer the door when a certain visitor came a-callin’.  Gloria once came up behind me in the student union and asked if I would help her get lunch; I turned around in confusion and found her to have both her arms in slings from a pole vaulting attempt gone horribly wrong (this may have been the next year, actually, but I can’t remember – the girl got injured almost as often as me, which was another bonding point).

So, yeah, good roommates = check.  Elsewhere, I was also finally realizing that I kinda liked people.  But by now, the normal people had all established their friend circles, and I realized I didn’t really have one, largely because I seemed to have a talent for befriending people who transferred out.  Then, on one of the first days of 20th Century British Lit, I sat by one of Elise’s friends that I knew but for whatever reason we’d never been close friends before.  Thus entered Becca.  She invited me to lunch, and I soon found myself with Becca, Pete, Adam, and Aaron.  They adopted me, lost puppy that I was.  These were also really the only people in my own year that I was friends with, because along with my ability to befriend transfers I also through Gloria knew her sophomore friends (more on that later).

Odd things I remember:

  • Becca – Mostly I just remember sitting around in the student union between classes, goofing around or helping each other with English homework.  Ours was just an easy friendship, which was a relief.  But we did have really good talks too, and I remember one in particular where we discussed how we needed deeper connections on spiritual grounds with people in our lives.  Immediately after this, Pete came up and asked if we’d seen some TV show the night before, and Becca and I both rolled our eyes but broke out laughing.
  • Pete – dragged us to at least one Shane & Shane concert, and I witnessed my first platonic man-on-man crush. Pete was a goofball but could also switch gears in an instant to help people, which I always admired.
  • Aaron – We once were left in the student union for like 3 hours between classes, he doing homework on something about fish and me working on a paper for Stevens.  I’m not sure we actually spoke until Aaron wanted me to go help him pick out Thank You Cards in the bookstore.  To my surprise, he picked very flowery ones.  (I really don’t know why I remember this.)
  • Adam – Okay.  I took this group up to the Haymarsh for an outdoorsy field trip during the spring, as Adam and Aaron were both very into environmental biology.  Driving my dad’s truck out in the back 900 acres somewhere, I should have known better than to drive through a soggy area – HayMARSH, after all.  I got the truck stuck.  More in annoyance than embarrassment (shame on me), I left my friends in the truck and went to chase down my dad, who was on the tractor not far away.  As this was my first ever “Are ya busy?”  (code in our family for being stuck and needing help) I was kinda amused with myself, and Dad laughed and drove the tractor to pull out his own truck where I had lodged it in knee-deep mud.  I, assuming Adam knew what he was doing, left Adam behind the wheel while I helped Dad hook the truck to the tractor.  Dad pulled and pulled on the tractor while I assumed Adam was in the truck trying to steer it out. Once the truck finally got free, turns out Adam had left it in park the entire time.

Back in the classrooms, I was still enjoying myself and gobbling up all I could.  I had a lot of Prof. Landrum that year.  He was probably my favorite professor because he flat out said that he didn’t care what grades we got, that the main point was that we get something out of it, and that that was up to us.  He had a very lecture-style of teaching, and it reminded me of Mr. T back in high school.  He was also the most eclectic of the profs I had, so that didn’t hurt.  Anyway, I had Landrum for Shakespeare (we watched many movies), 16th Century Brit Lit, Literary Criticism (where people on either side of me played solitaire on their laptops the entire time), 20th Century Brit Lit, and he was one of the three profs for Love & Friendship (sort of like a real class except that the profs clearly got bored and wandered in and out of the room to get handfuls of cookies from the office across the hall).  I also had Christian Theology with Duff, American Lit with Stevens (“Does it scare anyone that I have scissors in my pockets?”), Public Speaking (in which I got an A+ for a speech on my name, thanks parents), and a few others that I’ve mostly forgotten.

Academically, I started to realize that, whether I tried or not, I was still a pretty good student and was going to get noticed for it. Classmates wanted help with their papers; profs clearly remembered who I was outside the classroom and sometimes even told me on the sidewalk that they’d liked my last paper.  So on the one hand – oops, guess I couldn’t avoid the Golden Child problem entirely.  On the other hand – affirmation is a nice thing.  It definitely encouraged me that I actually could write after all.  It wasn’t just something I liked doing; maybe I was actually good at it.  (Although I still think Stevens missed the point of my “extremely good” anti-Fussell poem that he HANDED OUT TO OTHER CLASSES, but that’s a whole other thing.)

Because of this boost, I started to seriously start working on my hobby project – The Kota Series.  It’s not a coincidence that my journal entries significantly dropped off during this time, for all my free-time writing now shifted to The Kota.  (Brief explanation:  The Kota is a sci-fi story that my brother and our friends Kaly and Luke made up when we were little and played every day.  Over the years, it had grown into a short-ish story of 4 “books” that I’d written based off of what we’d played.  Now, I started to flesh them out with the goal of making them real books at some point.  I was never aiming for “ooh, I want to be a big published author” or anything.  I just wanted this story that had meant something to me for over a decade to actually be in print, in book form that I could have forever.) I don’t think that I told anyone other than my roommates what I was doing cooped up behind my laptop all the time, but I’d finally found my creative release and kinda dove into it during this time.

Then “8 Mile” came out.  I connect crap all over the place anyway, but “Lose Yourself” really hit home with me as I was branching out in my own creative project, and the song felt like a kick in the butt so that I decided I was actually going to publish this thing.  For that, I will forever be thankful to Eminem.

Anyway, the rest of Junior Year for some reason is a blur, probably because I actually enjoyed myself but I was still in a place where I only held onto the bad times (baby steps…).  But really, by this point, I was pretty happy.  I liked my friends (a new concept, but delightful).  I liked school (and the renewed affirmation).  And I had my own thing that I could work on in the background, smirking and scribbling down notes for my book whenever something inspired me.

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