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Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Honesty

“Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends." - Margaret Thatcher 

Christmas, we've been told, is the most wonderful time of the year. It's filled with precious family members making sweet long-lasting memories together. It's about spreading joy and cheer. It's about loving love and making heavenly magical cookies with angelic frosting. 

But let's be real. Is that really what ends up happening? 

Christmas is everybody going to bed mad over the taboo game and waking up to yell about it some more. Christmas is hanging out with family members that you don't really know or have anything in common with. Christmas is grandparents making you feel guilty for not spending enough time with them and too much time with other "inferior" family members. Christmas is lying to little kids about a big fat man throwing out presents all over the world and eventually breaking their hearts when they learn it's not true. Christmas is trying to maneuver through all the out-of-state license plates parked all over the neighborhood. Christmas is watching Miracle on 34th Street over and over because there is nothing else on tv. Christmas is arguing over whose bringing dessert and whose bringing what side item. Christmas is sitting in the parking lot of Toys R Us for an hour only to find the one toy you wanted is sold out. 

It's Scrooge sounding, right? Debatable. I call it honesty. 

If there's anything I am guilty of, it's telling the truth. I'm open, raw, honest; I'll be the one to say it when everyone is thinking it. 

You know I'm right. That's why movies like Christmas Vacation and holiday episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond are so funny. They are so completely accurate to what really happens during Christmas. Once we  grow up into adults, Christmas becomes a much different experience from when we ran downstairs and found our first Super Nintendo (still to this day ... best Christmas present I've ever received).

It's sad. 

I think it's because we've been told by society that Christmas is supposed to be all these different things. It's almost like it's forced. But all my wonderful times and sweet long-lasting memory family making happen when it happens. It's not planned. It's not forced. It is what it is. 

Regardless if your Christmas is picture perfect ideal and as pretty as a picture or if it's filled with dysfunction, arguments and a cornucopia of family drama ... I hope it's everything you want and more. 

Personally, I'm looking forward to tonight's Christmas Eve service at Hunter Street and watching It's A Wonderful Life with my mother. 

The Merriest of Christmases to you! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook

I have absolutely no connection to Newtown, CT or Sandy Hook Elementary or anyone who lost a loved one in last Friday's horrific tragedy. But for some reason, I didn't get any sleep last night because I could not quit thinking about the 20 little angels that beat their family members to paradise. For some reason, it's three days later, and I still get choked up thinking about what happened. For some reason, I feel like the parents are people I know and for some reason, I'm hurting immensely for them.

And I know that obviously there is a reason...I am a human-being built with a heart filled with all sorts of emotions and was moved by what I saw just like everyone else. But I have never reacted so strongly to heartbreaking news like this.

I'm an Alabamian who knew people severely affected by April 27 2011's tornado and yes that was sad ... but, I didn't react to that news as I am with this.

I have two good friends who are school teachers. I immediately texted them and told them I hope and pray they will never find themselves in such a situation. The very thought of my two girlfriends dying to shield their students is unbearable ... but that's just a thought. The girlfriends of Victoria and the other teachers who died are actually living that thought. I can't imagine.

I wish there was something I could do to help. I wish I lived close enough to bring the families a casserole and to go to the memorials to pray and to do whatever I could to relieve a portion of their pain. But all the casseroles and prayers in the world are not going to bring those babies home. And my heart is just shattered for them.

Praying for you, Newtown.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Standing outside the fire

I went camping for the first time this weekend.

The works.

And of course, it wasn't just a normal, regular experience.
No, it was one of those "Is this really happening to me right now?" type experiences.

First, we got to the site right as the sun was going down. Which is not good ... since one needs some light in order to set everything up ... but also, Mount Cheaha is the highest point in the state and I wanted to see how pretty it was. But that didn't happen (and it didn't happen in the morning either...but I digress). That's okay, we said. We will just make the fire first and that will solve the light problem.

We realized, though, that it was going to take years to gather enough wood and leaves and sticks to make an actual legit fire. Yeah, that was the plan. Gather up a bunch of leaves on our site and make a fire. No. Doesn't work that way.

Thank the Lord God above that the state park store sold firewood. I spent over $30 for 5 bushels of wood (The woman said that 2 bushels would be plenty ... but it took us one whole bushel to get the fire started so I had to go back down and get three more so we could survive). Every time I walked back into the store, I got judgmental looks.

So, we finally got a pretty good fire started but that didn't help the light situation ... which was not good because we had a tent to set up ... a tent without instructions in the dark. So, while Janie attempted to put it together, I held a flashlight giving her light to see, while also tending to the fire. The two cars that drove by had a good laugh, I'm sure.

After an hour of unsuccessful tent making, I gave in and called the girl who let me borrow her tent. She attempted to tell me how to do it and then suggested that we just look at the instructions stapled into the bag. Instructions that we didn't know were there. Of course. Normal.

So yes, we did have instructions but they were not helpful at all. Janie pressed on, however, repeating to herself that she was going to get it if it was the last thing she did. An hour and a half later ... we finally had the tent up (wish I had a picture to prove it) But, oh the joy and the happiness.

But yes, it took two and a half hours to put up the tent. In the dark. With a flashlight. Definition of teamwork.

Next, it was time to eat ... that part of the trip went smoothly. We combined raw meat with potatoes and carrots in a tin foil bag and threw them on the fire. Thirty minutes later, we had a nice little meat and potatoes meal. I was very impressed with the outcome. It was no Outback but it definitely was better than a Lean Cuisine.

Then, I lost my smore virginity. I had never ever made or had a smore in my whole 24 years of living.  Pretty yummy stuff.

We sat around the fire and talked and laughed and gossiped and freaked out at every little noise we heard until we got tired. We made a little palette of blankets in the tent (8 of them to be exact) and attempted to go to sleep ... which was insanely difficult to do since the tent ended up being situated on a small hill due to the problems we had setting it up. Half of my body was laying low and the other half was a bit on higher ground. Three days later ... I'm still feeling it. Next time, an air mattress is seriously going to happen. I don't know what we were thinking not bringing one. #rookieproblems

I don't know how much time had gone by when Janie woke me up.

"Amy, it's raining", she said. I sat up and sure enough ... there was a light drizzle coming from the little opening in the top of the tent, the opening that I requested we leave open so we could get "the full effect".

I assured Janie it was just a light drizzle and that we would be fine. Few more minutes go by and the rain starts to come down even harder. And oh there was thunder too. So poor sweet little Janie flung herself outside the tent to find the covering for the tent's ceiling. Thankfully, that part was not hard to figure out and she got it on just in time so that we weren't drenched. Just a little damp.

The next morning, we awoke to ...

Which was very, very unfortunate because we had planned on waking up and hiking the park. But it soon hit us that hiking was not going to happen. In fact, we realized that it would probably be best if we just packed everything up .... and head to the nearest Cracker Barrel.

Which we did. We somehow took apart our masterpiece of a tent in the pouring rain and shoved it ... water, mud and all, into my car. All 8 blankets were drenched. The fold-up chairs. Our clothes. Everything. Drenched.

To make everything even more fun, it was insanely foggy. So I still have no idea what Mount Cheaha looks like. But I'm convinced I'll make it happen sometime.

We stuffed our faces at the next exit at Cracker Barrel, to make ourselves feel better. And I'm pretty sure I've never been out in public looking that bad. I threw a hat on over my disgusting wet hair but I still got more judgmental looks. 'Twas the weekend of judgment.

Lessons learned:
Bring firewood
Get to the campsite before the sun goes down
Make sure you know how to set up your sleeping quarters
Bring a stinkin' air mattress

Who wants to go with me next time?!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pastor Spencer

I like to think that I have a good amount of friends.

Some of them have come and gone and come back again.
Some have remained all along.
Some have gone all together.
Some I'm super close with and can say just about anything.
Some I used to be very close with and now are forced to merely "keep in touch".
Some I'm just acquaintances with ... but I could still eat lunch with them if need be.
Some are somewhere between the hazy division between acquaintance and super uber closeness.
Some I've known for years.
Some I've known for a few months.
Some I talk to everyday.
Some I talk to once a month.

All kinds of friendships on so many different levels. That's how it should be.

Jordan and I have been friends since my senior year of high school. She joined the yearbook staff that year and we instantly clicked and had so much in common. We both loved Grey's Anatomy.  We both loved (and still love) to cook and bake anything we could get our hands on. And we both have that little bit of the judgmental factor going on ... (You know, being from Vestavia we had some snotty in us). We liked all the same people and disliked all the same people. Instant friendship.

I graduated a year before she did and it was then that we started having lunch dates at California Pizza Kitchen. We would have lunch maybe every three or four months to just catch up on each other's lives and enjoy being around each other. And for almost six years thats how we've operated. It's almost become like a routine. Somehow my brain knows around the three or four month mark that it's time for me to get my Jordan fix ... at California Pizza Kitchen and nowhere else (Although we have strayed a few times and gone to Jim N Nick's because we both love love love anything from there too.)

Last night was my three/four monthly check-up/catch-up with Jordan. However, because I'm still trying to take it easy due to this gross infection, I kindly requested that we go to Panera because I just wanted something light and she so willingly obliged (It felt a little wrong being in there with her to be honest. I missed the modern-day ambiance of CPK. Oh well. Next time).

During our visit, our conversation headed towards the topic of the 20-year-old Auburn student who died suddenly a few weeks ago. I did not know the girl but I had seen a post on Facebook from my old choir teacher talking about how great of a person she was and how he would miss seeing her face in the choir every Sunday; old choir teacher (and just so happens to be my favorite teacher of all time) goes to Dawson (a massive Baptist Church in the area), and I've known for years that Jordan went there too but I never even put two and two together. It did not ever cross my mind that Jordan might have known her or been extremely close to her.

And she was. Jordan and Franny were very close. She had tears in her eyes as she talked about Franny  and how great she was and how she literally just died out of the blue ... absolutely nothing wrong with her. It just happened in an instant. Jordan told me that since Franny's death, she has gone from being very upset to being flat out angry because Franny didn't do anything wrong, and she didn't deserve to have her life taken from her at age 20. Which is absolutely 100% true.

Jordan went onto say that recently she was expressing her anger to her older brother, Spencer (and let me just say ... their sibling relationship is one to long for. They are so close and they love each other and I think that's great). After Jordan was done expressing how she felt, Spencer responded. He said,

"Jordan. Franny is so lucky though. She only had to be on this earth for 20 years! Most people have to wait to go home for 70 or 80 years but she only had to wait 20. She's so incredibly lucky."

Well.  That's when my tears started to form. I have never heard anyone describe death that way. Sure, we've all heard "They are in a better place" and "I'm not sad for them, I'm sad for myself" ... but to hear Earth actually be described as a place we should want to leave ASAP, it was beautiful. And refreshing. And really shook me up.

It's been over 24 hours since our conversation, and I still can't stop thinking about it. My prayer last night and my prayer tonight is that I can have that same attitude, that same mindset. I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we would admit that we don't think of life and death this way. But we should.

I've only met Spencer one time. He's in the Air Force and lives in Texas now. But I am so thankful that he knew the perfect thing to say to my friend while she was hurting. And I'm thankful that Jordan passed his words onto me.

And I'm thankful for friends like Jordan. We can go for several months without seeing or talking to each other ... and then pick up where we left off, and it's perfectly fine. Sweet friend.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Infection. Ew.

I almost made it through 2012 without being sick at all.

No colds.
No fevers.
No viruses.

And then Bam! The first week of December, I have a super fun kidney infection to deal with. And of course, I had four different interviews scheduled for this week. Of course.

I cannot tell you how much Netflix I have watched over the past three days.

Actually, I can.

I finished Once Upon A Time (now I just need to borrow someone's Hulu account to catch up!), finally watched The King's Speech (been meaning to do that for two years), threw in a couple of Everybody Loves Raymond episodes, and started season 2 of The Tudors.

Being lazy is nice for a while, but I'm ready to be exposed to direct sunlight again and to socialize with human beings. And if I've learned anything from this experience ... it's that I take my health for granted everyday. I always am aware that I am blessed with my house and my "toys" and my family and my friends but I never really stop to appreciate the fact that I have my health too.

But let me be here to say ... I, Amy Barton, appreciate my health and am the most blessed. I need to do a better job at being grateful.

I am finally feeling better, going to an interview this afternoon and can't wait to drive my car again.

Happy Wednesday.