One Ring to Rule Them All

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He proposed at the Grand Canyon. I have no words.

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The Extremely Versatile White Denim Vest

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I just have a funny feeling about this trip. I do. A very excited feeling. I mean – it’s perfectly possible that nothing is going to happen and I’m just going to have to wait till my birthday. But who knows? There’s just this weird excitement in the air. There were trains blowing whistles in the night last night, and this morning too which is unusual, and that always seems to happen when there’s going to be a big change in my life, or I’m about to go somewhere new. I used to lie awake at night and listen to the train whistles the summer before I moved out, and think that I was going to go somewhere. I was going to get out of here.

I had a bunch of big projects this week that I have been scurrying to finish up all week long (not quite finished yet, but getting close), and when I need a break I have been intermittently packing. Let me show you my extremely versatile white denim vest! It just goes with absolutely everything.

When the Beast and I were at Niagara Falls over Memorial Day, we went to a bar called Legends where they took FOREVER to make our hamburgers, and I thought the bartender was just the neatest-looking girl with the coolest sense of fashion. She had on a maxi skirt with champagne-and-white chevrons, a white tank top and a faded denim vest. She also had matching rose-gold-colored sandals and bangles, which I thought was just about the coolest thing ever. (I spent a long time looking at her outfit because there was NOTHING else to do.) And eventually I decided that I really needed to get myself a denim vest. So I got this one from Target and, while it doesn’t look quite as cool on me as hers did on her, it still goes with all kinds of things, including these scandalous little short stripy skirts from Forever 21.

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And with long skirts also!

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I must show you these necklaces up close because they are both very cool. This one is a peacock!

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And this one is a real butterfly wing encased in acrylic! The Beast got it for me when we were in Boston for the 4th of July. It was at a little street vendor in Quincy Market, and they also had flowers frozen in acrylic. But the butterfly wings were better because BUTTERFLIES.

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I don’t imagine I’m going to be posting much over the next couple of weeks. We are leaving at 7am tomorrow. Maybe I will come back with a ring and maybe I will not. But I’m telling you, I just have a good feeling about this trip.

The best answer I ever heard to “How are you?” was “I’m hangin’ loose like a bucket of juice.” Hang loose y’all.

God be with you till we meet again. 🙂

Nails!

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I believe I have had more success with them this time. I decided I was going to sit down this evening with Nat King Cole and just make a craft project out of it. They are not perfect, but they are recognizable as nails!

I did not bother with the miserable cappucino-colored undercoat this time, but just painted white more or less accurately on the tops and sealed it in with clear nail polish, which I used to use as varnish for the little clay animals I made when I was young. And then the accent nails were supposed to be silver but came out looking more like iron pyrite, which is fool’s gold and, I suppose, appropriate for someone making all this fuss about a ring she doesn’t even have yet.

We leave for the Wild West on Saturday. That is all, good night!

Episode 24: Last part of the series.

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The rest of my story is really the continuing story of me and the Beast. In August 2013, my friend Bilbo helped me load up my furniture into a small U-Haul, except for my red couch and my piano, which I didn’t think it was really worthwhile to transport. There was lots of drama from my parents, but at this point I knew where I was supposed to be. The Beast came down to help me move, and I drove the U-Haul behind him and followed him to Maryland through the rainy mountains. When we got to Baltimore the sun came out, and I knew I was home.

Today I have been home for almost a year. I live in a little brick row house in a quiet square, two blocks down from the Beast, with many Tiffany lamps and a white bedroom that smells like vanilla. My business is so busy I’m thinking about taking on a contract employee. The Beast’s family loves me, and I love them. Sometime between now and my 26th birthday in September, I will be getting an engagement ring. (I hope this will happen on our two-week Wild West trip later this month, but I’m telling myself I just have to wait until my birthday.)

Pretty much every morning I get up and thank God for bringing me here. The summer before I moved to Baltimore, I went to Charleston for the weekend with some of my old friends from Bag End University. While we were there, two things happened to encourage me. I was finding it hard to believe that I could make such a big move, and that it would all work out. We were in a little art glass shop, and I saw these wonderful birds. All different colors of little glass birds, like drops of the rainbow. I said to myself, “I’m going to get a yellow canary bird, and my living room in Baltimore will be yellow canary bird themed.” I bought the little canary, and every time I looked at it, it reminded me to be hopeful. Sure enough, my living room here has a black couch and yellow canary bird cushions. The little glass canary bird sits on my coffee table.

The other thing that happened was, on Sunday morning we all went to a Brethren church in Charleston and there was the most wonderful, encouraging sermon about Ruth, and how she left her family and her native land and set out to a new place, and how God blessed her for that. Whenever I start to feel grey and icky inside, I go and read the book of Ruth. These are my favorite verses:

Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.”

I love it that God has wings, and that He seems to send birds to encourage me. Did you know that Baltimore is called Birdland because of the Ravens and the Orioles? The birds here are friendly, too. A lot of them will hop right up to you and eat some crumbs.

I also love these verses from Jeremiah:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Sometimes I think to myself, Well, I wish I hadn’t had to go through all that business, because I didn’t like it very much. But the Beast says: “If you hadn’t gone through all that, you wouldn’t be here right now, would you? You’d be at a different place in life. So you see God knew what He was doing.” We were just talking about this the other day. We drove up to Boston for the fourth of July. You know you love someone when you can sit and talk for 7 hours with the radio off, and the only thing that reminds you it was 7 hours is because your butt ends up being sore. And I guess that is pretty much all.

(End of series.)

To be continued. 🙂

Episode 23: They Were from Goodwill, But They Were Normal People Clothes.

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Once I had moved out, I set up a 10-day free profile on Christian Café. I figured online dating couldn’t be any worse than real life. The first week after I moved out, I was doing some on-site proofing for a local agency, so each day at lunchtime I would go to the Starbucks down the street and check my messages. All kinds of people sent me messages – some stupid, some creative, some creepy. It was like a grab bag – you never knew what you were going to get. How fun!

On the eighth or ninth day of my free trial, a high-school teacher in Baltimore started to message me. His emails were clever and thoughtful and he had obviously put some time into writing them. I was already talking to a computer programmer in North Carolina at this point – he seemed fairly nice, if a bit shy, and he was a mountain climber – so I didn’t answer the teacher right away. Finally, after he had sent me two or three messages, I felt a little guilty and I wrote him back.

It turned out that this teacher was really an interesting person. He was smart, funny and cute. He was also very, very kind. It turned out that he had given up several scholarships to law school, so he could stay in town and take care of his much-younger brother after their mother died. He became a teacher instead, so he could take his brother to school every day and be there for the little boy when there was no school. He taught in a terrible district in Baltimore City where there were frequent knife fights and bomb threats. He had toughed it out there for nine years so far.

The Beast had an extraordinarily deep faith. He had known the Real God for years and years and he knew much more about Him than I did.

After a day or two I forgot all about the mountain climber and stopped answering his emails. The Beast and I talked on the phone every night until the wee hours of the morning. Two weeks after we had started talking, he got into his black Honda Civic and drove nine hours down to see me. The next weekend, he drove down again. The weekend after that, I flew up.

My parents soon found out about the Beast – one of their spies from their church had seen us together downtown at an art festival – and my parents had a huge fight with me, which culminated in nobody from the family speaking to me for a month. One day in November, after a month of radio silence, my father texted me and invited me to my sister’s birthday party. Everyone was very polite. They acted like the Beast, and the fight, had never existed. After that, my relationship with the family was polite but strained. We lived fifteen minutes apart, but we did not see each other very much.

Over the next year, the Beast and I traveled to see each other every chance we got. God continued to bless my business. I always had enough money to pay my rent and my bills, and enough left over for plane tickets or hotels when I needed them. I got a portable Wifi hotspot so I could take my business on the road. I learned all about how airports work – the first time I had to fly anywhere alone, I was very scared. But all the people were nice, and I just asked questions and figured it out. In April, I paid taxes for my business for the first time ever. I had enough money, and I had money left over.

Except for using my dad’s online tax program to calculate my taxes, I never asked my parents for help with anything. When my car broke down, I called a tow truck, had it towed to the repair place and got the battery replaced. When something needed to be fixed or done, I either did it myself or found someone who could do it for me. I drove all the way out to Union, SC to buy a piano off Craiglist. I never made a late payment on anything.

Each time I needed a project, I prayed and said “God, please send me a project. I need some money.” And sure enough, the next day or so, there one would be. I have said this before, but it was a lot like being a bird and having God feed you. I said “God, if you will send them, I will do them.” He sent the projects and I did them! That is how my business has worked from that day to this.

I went to a Lutheran church sometimes – which was very different from my previous experiences with church, and didn’t feel threatening – but a lot of the time, I just rested from church. I feel like I learned more about God from trusting Him to take care of me, and from seeing first-hand how good He was to me, than I ever learned from being in church.

I enjoyed being a grownup, living on my own! My friend Bilbo and I drank some champagne together on New Year’s Eve. I got a record player and I started collecting vintage records from thrift stores. It felt so wonderful to lie in bed at night and listen to Bert Kaempfert or Nat King Cole without being hollered at.

I also started experimenting with wearing normal clothes! I wore shorts outside for the first time ever, and started getting an actual tan. I felt so daring, walking around Greenville, SC in regular person clothes! I didn’t have a lot of extra money for clothes at this time, so most of my wardrobe came from Goodwill. But I didn’t look so much like a freak anymore. In the summer, I sometimes took my laptop to a park and worked in the sun, drinking a big cappuccino and feeling the sun on my shoulders. The feeling of the sun on your bare shoulders, while you drink a big sugary drink, is the feeling of freedom.

In the spring, the distance between me and the Beast started to feel too long. My job was portable, and his wasn’t. We started talking about me moving to Baltimore in the fall, when my lease was up.

To be continued.

Heavy work week.

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Did I tell you that I have a content development business? God sent me A LOT of stuff to do this week, I’m telling you what. I’ll put up the next bit of the story once I get over the hump. You’ve heard the most interesting part of it anyway – now it’s just mainly how I met the Beast and eventually moved to Maryland, and now here I am living in a little brick row house where I have been for nearly a year. And in less than two weeks we are going to the Wild West, where I will either get proposed to or else I will not, in which case I will have to wait another two months for my birthday.  But I am going to do my nails (read: TRY to do my nails AGAIN) before we leave just in case.

Anyway I hope y’all are having a wonderful Monday.

One last summer of big baggy shirts: Episode 22

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I tried not to talk to anyone, especially my mother, about my decision to move out. It wasn’t something I wanted to discuss. I figured my father already knew about it, and that was all I really cared about. I figured when it was time for me to go, I would just make the announcement and be gone. That meant that I had to start getting things ready.

That summer was a summer of hard work and intense focus. I tried hard to stay under the radar: I did just enough housework so I wouldn’t get in trouble, and then retreated to the back bedroom and worked quietly on my business for the rest of the day. I took conference calls, I pulled in new clients. I sent out resume after resume after resume and did project after project after project. Checks came in the mail, and once every week or two I asked my father to take me to the bank. I made a Word document called “Money Records” where I kept track of everything I made, everything I spent and everything I banked, in different colors of ink.

I tried not to rock the boat or call attention to myself with my clothes. I wore loose T-shirts and baggy jeans and kept my hair bundled into a clip. I figured I could put my life on hold for a few months and it would be a good investment overall. At Minas Morgul Baptist Church, I wore dark clothes and faded into corners, or hid in the bathroom during breaks between services. During the long, guilt-trippy sermons, I scribbled on sermon note paper, but I was not taking notes. I planned, I made budgets. I tried to figure out exactly how much I would need for food, utilities, rent, gas, insurance and other things each month. I decided that I would budget $5000 to get me started with all of my expenses, and I would leave $5000 in the bank as a buffer. When I had $10,000, I planned to move out.

I decided that I was not going to date anyone, or think about dating anyone, again, as long as I lived at home. I was getting lonely, so that would give me some extra incentive to move out! On another sheet of sermon note paper, I drafted an online dating profile. I decided that once I was settled into my new place, I would put up a profile on Christian Café just to see what would happen.

I also planned my furniture. This was the most fun part. When my brain was tired from working on my business and making endless lists and budgets, I closed my eyes and imagined what my living room, kitchen and bedroom would look like. I figured I could shop at Salvation Army and Goodwill and find some cheap things that would go with the color schemes I had planned. I had never decorated a whole apartment of my own and this was going to be fun.

The centerpiece of my living room was going to be a beautiful Tiffany lamp. Halfway through the summer, I decided I had enough money to buy one, so I ordered it off Amazon and it arrived in a huge box. Stained glass has always made me feel gorgeous inside. I lit up this lamp like a big glowing bonfire and I visualized my living room and my whole apartment around it, with this glowing peacock-colored lamp at the heart. Once I got the lamp, I knew for sure I would be getting out of there.

Something very important happened to me over the summer. I was feeling down one day, after hearing a long guilt-trippy sermon, and I wondered if I was doing the right thing or if God would strike me down dead for trying to escape. I stood in the back bedroom feeling all anxious. Then I suddenly thought: “God, if You’re real, You must be outside of all this. You must be different from what I was taught growing up. God, are You there?” A weird thing happened. It was like I could feel a presence all of a sudden, full of light and full of peace. It was kind of like there was a light shining down into my soul from the top right corner of the room, if that makes any sense. I felt like I was praying to the Unknown God that St. Paul’s pagan people put up the altars to. Ever since then. I have always known that He is there.

Sometime in mid-August, my father drove by an old car junkyard on the side of the road and saw a 1999 Saturn that seemed to be in good condition. He took me out to look at it, I liked it, and I bought it for $2000. I paid cash in an envelope, and I got the title and keys. I had a real car.

I called Geico and got set up with car insurance, because I had heard a Geico ad on the radio that said “Fifteen minutes saves you fifteen percent.” Then I drove straight to Goodwill and bought every plate, mug and piece of silverware that I could see, as well as a second-hand coffee pot, which I loaded into the trunk. I had dishes now! Keeping my remaining budgeted $3000 in mind, I then went to Dollar General and stocked up on cheap toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, soap, shampoo and detergent. For the past couple of months, I had been making about $1500 a month. I didn’t know if I would have enough money for toilet paper next month.

Nothing could stop me now, I was on a roll! I had seen a sign for some apartments near Goodwill, so I drove to the (somewhat shabby) complex and walked into the office. I said, “I would like to rent an apartment, please, how do I go about this?” They gave me a bunch of papers to fill out and told me that I would have to go home and get some check stubs so I could prove I had a business. I drove back home, grabbed them and made it back to the office before they closed for the afternoon. I paid the deposit, I paid some extra money that I guess I had to pay because I was an unknown quantity, I paid the renter’s insurance and I got everything squared away that day. They gave me a big folder of information and told me that I could come get my key in two weeks because that was when the apartment would be ready. The rent was going to be $688 per month, and I figured I could just about handle that.

I went home and told my mother that I had an apartment and I was moving out in two weeks. She looked stunned. I took her over to see the sample apartment on the property and she did not say anything, just stared at me with a frozen face and said “But… But….”

Now I had two weeks to find some furniture. I wanted a red couch, and lo and behold, several days later I saw a red couch sitting by the side of the road. The people were so happy to get rid of it, they delivered it for me! I also got a table and chairs on sale at K-mart, a futon bed, and a comforter and some pillows. Everything else I needed, I found second-hand. I was still under budget, with about $6000 total in the bank at this point.

I called Duke Electric and set up my electricity, and I called Comcast and set up my Internet. My last birthday at home, I was 24 years old. My mother had not really been talking to me, but she gave me a miniature crockpot. My dad helped me more some of my larger pieces of furniture over, but by and large, I moved myself in with no assistance. The first thing I did was plug in my Tiffany lamp. It sat on the floor, and in its glow, I set about putting everything in my cupboards and getting everything all set up.

My lease started on September 18, 2012. I had my own place. I got down on my knees on the carpet and thanked the Real God.

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To be continued.